Gluten Free. You’ve heard the term. You’ve probably used it. You might have even decided to try a gluten-free diet because you heard it was healthier for you. If someone asked you today, could you explain what gluten is, or why anyone would need to eat a gluten-free diet? Sometimes, trendy words in the diet world get so popular they become main stream and no one takes the time to explain it to you! In this post we want to break down what gluten is, why someone would avoid it, and how we can help (should you choose) to live a gluten-free life!
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a general name for all of the proteins found in in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). The two main proteins are gliadin and glutenin; they make up about 80% of the protein found in wheat products. These proteins have elastic properties that let breads rise, help foods keep their shape and are able to thicken sauces.
What kind of foods contain gluten?
Gluten can be found in many foods, even in ones that you wouldn’t expect. Here are some common sources of gluten:
Wheat (most common source): bread, pasta, cereal, baked goods, sauces and dressings (It hides in there as a thickening agent!)
Barley: Beer, soups, malt
Rye: cereal, rye bread, rye beer and rye whiskey
Why eat gluten-free?
We know, we know…. All of the foods listed above taste so good! Why on earth would you want to avoid bread or pasta? For some people, ingesting gluten can cause inflammatory or even auto-immune responses in the body.
It’s estimated that 1 out of every 100 people have an auto-immune condition called Celiac Disease. Celiac disease is a genetic condition where the ingestion of gluten causes damage to the small intestine. Their body begins to attack the small intestine where the gluten is being absorbed. This damages the wall of the small intestine and can lead to long-term health issues if the person continues to eat gluten throughout their life.
Not only can the gluten cause internal damage to the intestine for people with celiac, the gluten can cause uncomfortable side effects on the body as it tries to fight this “invader”. In children and adolescents, symptoms usually present through digestive issues. For adults, symptoms of celiac can vary. Some possible symptoms are: fatigue, bone/joint pain, depression/anxiety, missed menstrual periods, canker sores, numbness in your hands and feet, and itchy/dry skin.
Another percentage of the population has what is called a non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Which basically means they have all of the same symptoms of celiac disease but when tested they do not test positive for celiac. There are on going studies to find out what about the wheat proteins are triggering the reaction if it’s not the gluten.
After all that information, here is the answer to the question: why avoid gluten? People that have celiac and/or a gluten sensitivity report that most of their symptoms completely resolve after removing gluten from their diet. Many people do not have any issues digesting gluten and it is not an issue! However, because there are so many symptoms that seem unrelated to diet, it is estimated that there are a lot of us (around 2.5 million) out there living with an undiagnosed celiac or a gluten sensitivity!
Everything we prepare in our kitchen is 100% gluten free. It’s even in our logo! Our company was created because Kristi (head chef and owner) discovered she had a gluten intolerance and needed to create a solution for herself. She (and now we) understand the importance of truly needing to eat glute-free.
In our kitchen we take the time to create meals with grains that do not include gluten, we use gluten-free pasta (made with chick peas so it’s full of protein), and we look at the ingredients of all items we purchase to make sure there is no gluten hiding! If you or someone you know needs to avoid gluten for any reason, you can rest assured that our meals are safe.
As always, just want to remind you that we’re not doctors here at Grace Savory & Sweet and if you think you might have a gluten intolerance you should always check with a medical professional before making changes to your lifestyle.
*Information found in this article can be found on the website for the Celiac Disease Foundation; celiac.org.