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How To Be Gluten Free And Why You Would Want To Be
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is the name of the protein found in a variety of different grains including wheat, barley, rye spelt, kamut, bulgur, faro and triticale. The compounds gliadin and glutenin together make up the structure that is gluten. Gliadin is the soluble part of gluten, while glutenin is insoluble. Gluten comes from the latin word glue and rightly named since it acts like glue giving dough its elasticity. It is also essential for giving breads the ability to rise properly during baking.
Why Is Gluten Bad?
When you have gluten intolerance or celiacs disease and repeatedly consume gluten it leads to chronic health, digestive problems and disease. The grains of today are not the same as past generations. The grains we consume today have been altered to resist insects, weather and weed killers such as roundup. All this tampering with nature makes for grains more rich in gluten than our stomachs are able to breakdown. When your stomach is not able to properly breakdown gluten the undigested proteins travel down into your small intestines wreaking havoc. Your intestines have small hair like projections that absorb nutrients known as villi and micro villi. When you have a gluten sensitivity and eat gluten the precious little villi that make it possible for you to absorb nutrients die! Villi are killed when you eat gluten. The longer you eat gluten the more nutrient deficient you become because your body can not absorb enough nutrients from your food. When you are deficient in essential nutrients you have a greater risk for chronic health problems and illness.
Do You Have Gluten Intolerance or Celiac Disease?
Most people don’t even realize they suffer from celiac disease or gluten intolerance. It usually takes on average 6 to 10 years for most people to be diagnosed or discover on their own that they have a sensitivity to gluten. 95% of people with celiac disease go undiagnosed and nearly 1% (1 in 33 Americans) of the US population suffers from celiac disease. It has been estimated by researchers that 18 million Americans have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. There is no cure for celiac disease and a completely gluten-free diet is the only form of treatment.
Symptom of gluten sensitivity include diarrhea, vomiting, migraine headaches, joint pain, abdominal pain, bloating, fatigue, headaches, “foggy brain” and other similar symptoms. Consuming gluten has also been said to cause acne, patches of dry skin, depression and anxiety as well, which is something that I personally battled for years. It wasn’t long after I discovered my own sensitivity to gluten and completely removed it from my diet that most all of my health ailments disappeared. Symptoms of gluten intolerance or celiacs may not show up until later in life which is why so many people suffer going undiagnosed.
How To Avoid Gluten
Obvious foods to stay away from are wheat, barley, and rye but even oats or oatmeal can be problematic for some. This is because oats contain the protein gliadin. Gliadin is not gluten but in some individuals it can cause gluten intolerance like symptoms because the proteins gluten and gliadin are similar.
Many food manufacturers hide gluten in their products such as deli meats, sauces, dressings and meat products. So, reading labels is imperative! Be cautious of other names for gluten such as modified food starch, Caramel color (can be made from barley), Dextrin (can be made from wheat), hydrolyzed vegetable protein/hydrolyzed plant protein/textured vegetable protein (could be derived from wheat, but most often not), wheat bran, couscous, maltodextrin (foreign made may be derived from gluten) and farina. Even if a food product says gluten free be careful, many will carry an allergy label stating that the product was manufactured in a facility or on equipment that contains wheat or gluten. When you begin to rid gluten out of your diet, I would suggest limiting your intake of processed foods and focus more on vegetables, fruits and meat.
If you like to have a drink now and then you will also have to stay away from some grain alcohols. Many people will tell you that distillation removes all of the gluten protein molecules responsible for reactions thus, rendering the alcohol gluten-free, but this just isn’t completely true. I can tell you from personal experience that you can have bloating and pain if you drink alcohol made from gluten laden grains, it also makes for an unwanted hang-over. The Celiac Sprue Association recommends all alcohols be made from non-gluten grain sources such as potato-based vodka, rum and tequila along with preservative- and dye-free wines, brandies and gluten-free beer. You also want to be cautious when consuming vinegar. Many vinegars are made from grains. Instead, try using balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, rice wine vinegar, wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar all of these are naturally gluten-free.
Gluten can also be found in items such as lotions, shampoo, cosmetics, medicines, supplements and even the glue on envelopes. Some researchers believe that gluten in personal care products don’t pose a threat to people with gluten sensitivity. This is because gluten molecules are too large too large to be absorbed by your skin. Although, gluten may enter into your body inadvertently through hand to mouth contact.
Even if you have pets you may also want to put them on a gluten free diet. This is because cross contamination can happen. You may not realize that some of your pet’s food has gotten on to your clothes and then some how into your mouth. Or you may come into contact with gluten from your pet’s affectionate kisses.
- Corn flour/Meal and Corn Starch)-Buy organic, conventional corn is made from GMO’s which can damage your intestinal tract. Use corn starch in baking and to thicken sauces.
- Quinoa-A member of the grass family it is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids. Cooks like rice.
- Amaranth-This ancient grain is technically an herb and was cultivated by the Aztecs. Amaranth is a good source of protein and can be used as a thickener for roux, white sauces, soups and stews.
- Tapioca Flour- A starch that’s extracted from the root of the cassava plant. It has a high carbohydrate content and little fiber, which makes it great for use in baked goods.
- Buckwheat-Despite it’s name buckwheat contains no wheat and contains about 6 grams of fiber for every half cup of buckwheat groats. This makes it a great for use in hot or cold cereal.
- Sorghum-Originating from Africa, it is now cultivated in many tropical and sub-tropical countries worldwide. Sorghum has a mild sweet flavor, which make it great for gluten free baking. Whole-grain sorghum flour has 6 grams of fiber.
- Coconut Flour- Great for baking recipes, it is high in fiber, protein and low in carbohydrates.
- Almond flour-Rich in omega 3’s and protein, it usually is made from blanched almonds. Almond meal can be made from either whole or blanched almonds.
Going gluten free is not just a fad. More and more people are discovering that they are gluten sensitive and food manufacturers are giving great option. It wasn’t too long ago that gluten free products were hard to find and some not very appetizing. Today you can enter almost any super market and find a space dedicated to gluten free products. There is no reason to miss your favorite gluten laden foods like donuts, pasta, bread, and baking mixes because, there are lots of options out there.
Here Are Some Of My Favorite Gluten Free Products
Perfect Flour Blend By Namaste Foods. I Love this flour blend because it doesn’t require any extra ingredients. You use it the same way as all purpose wheat flour cup for cup in most recipes.
Pacific Natural Foods Organic Cream of Chicken Soup is a great pantry staple and is also available in other flavors like cream of mushroom. Substitute these soups in popular recipes and hearty casseroles that often require condensed soups, nobody will even know the difference. The best part is it’s organic! No GMO’s
Sam Mills Pasta is 100% gluten free corn pasta. This corn pasta taste so great you won’t even know the difference, I know since my husband can’t even tell it’s gluten free! Stock your cupboard with different varieties of this tasty pasta.
Pamela’s Products Ultra Chocolate Brownie Mix is a chocoholics dream! You don’t have to give up your sweet tooth for yummy brownies when you remove gluten from your diet. This chocolate brownie mix is easy to make and can even be adapted to make cookies as well as egg free!
I Hope You Will Try Some Of My Favorite Products! I Would Love To Hear What Products You Like To Use In The Comments Below!
Photo Credit: freedigitalphotos.net “Wheat And Flour” by adamr