Friday, September 26, 2014

Wheat, Barley, Rye, Oh My!: The 411 On What Gluten Really Is

“Does dairy have gluten?” “Oh, you can eat fries?” “Are you really allergic, or are you just into this gluten free fad?” “What even is gluten?”

If you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, I’m sure you get questions like this all the time. I know I do! It surprises me how there are a lot of people who are unaware of what gluten even is, let alone what celiac disease is. In today’s blog post, I’m going to clear it all up for you!

Gluten is a protein composite found in wheat, barley and rye. In Latin, gluten literally translates to “glue,” which makes sense because gluten is what gives baked goods and breads that elasticity to hold it all together and rise to make such fluffy goodness. That explains why some of gluten free products tend to fall apart and taste so bland.

Many people tend to think potatoes and other starches have gluten, but that is not the case at all! Even rice is gluten free, and rice flour is usually what is substituted for wheat flour in GF products.

Let’s talk cross contamination. If a gluten free pizza is prepared on the same counter space as a regular pizza with flour, it’s extremely likely your “gluten free” pizza will have traces of gluten in them. Even ovens can create cross contamination. It’s crazy to know that even the smallest amount of gluten can make someone with an intolerance super sick.

Now moving on to celiac disease. 1 in 133 people have celiac disease. If you have an immediate family member with celiac, your chances jump to 1 in 22. This is my case, because my mom also has celiac. The most basic way I can explain it is this: celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which gluten acts as toxin and poison to the body. When someone like me eats gluten, my immune system reacts by damaging, and sometimes destroying villi, the small hair like follicles lining the small intestine that are supposed to pull in the vitamins and nutrients to allow food to be absorbed. Without these villi working, it’s likely to become malnourished, no matter how many vitamins I take or how much food I eat.

In result, this leads to other issues, most commonly extreme stomach problems, chronic exhaustion and a completely lowered immune system. The list of other symptoms goes on from ADHD, to tingling in hands and feet, to ulcers in the mouth- all things I myself have faced more than any normal person should.

If someone with celiac continues to eat gluten, they can face major problems in the long run. My doctor gave me an example of a woman who had over 5 miscarriages in a few years before meeting with her. After being diagnosed with celiac and switching to a gluten free diet, she became pregnant and carried a healthy baby full term. Other long run risks include high chances of cancer.

I hope this blog post helps inform anyone who is curious to know more about gluten and celiac disease. I’m not a doctor, but having celiac disease myself, I’ve become very interested in researching all about it. If you have any questions, feel free to message me or comment below!  I’d love to spread my knowledge on the subject!

Check back later next week for some yummy GF recipes and products I love!



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