Gluten, what exactly is it and why does it receive so much attention? The word gluten actually comes from a Latin word for glue. Gluten is responsible for giving dough that stretchy texture and helps prevent baked goods from crumbling apart. Gluten in wheat is a type of protein called gliadin. Rye’s gluten is called secalin and barley’s gluten protein is called hordein. These three types of protein are all very similar and people who struggle with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease need to either avoid or eliminate entirely these three forms of gluten. People who are sensitive to gluten can experience a wide array of symptoms ranging from mild gas, constipation & headaches to full out cramps, diarrhea & migraines. Those with celiac can experience all of these symptoms at a much more intense level. Children with celiac disease may experience a slowed down growth rate. According to William Davis, author of Wheat Belly, research on celiac disease shows that it is on the rise and that unusual symptoms are now joining the more recognized symptoms. This means that there are many people suffering from Celiac disease without even knowing it.
So what should we do about this? I don’t think that everyone needs to avoid gluten like the plague. We do however, need to take a closer look at our overall diet and make sure that it has a firm foundation built upon veggies, then fruit, lean meat & protein sources followed by grains. I do believe grains can be an important part of our diet, we do however, need a whole lot more variety than we’ve been used to. Have you been introduced to quinoa (I know, it is a seed but we treat it like a grain and it does have similar properties), brown or wild rice, amaranth, buckwheat, millet or oats? These are all wonderful grains that should start making an appearance in your kitchen! Oats are actually not gluten free – they contain their very own gluten protein known as avenin, this type of gluten usually doesn’t bother those with the above mentioned gluten sensitivities. However, oats are often grown close to wheat and then harvested & processed with the same machinery. For those who are very sensitive, they need to purchase oats labelled as gluten free.
If you are struggling with just not feeling great, have joint pain, sluggish bowels, frequent headaches or want to see what life is like going gluten free, I encourage you to do your homework first. Plan ahead, make good food choices, read about it, and talk to those who have gone there before you. The library is full of resources as well as our world wide web. I happen to have a few stellar recipes right here on my site too! Pop on over to the recipe page. How about pizza muffins, banana muffins or a delicious curry?
If I may be so bold, I would like to offer one more piece of advice. Bakeries & products are popping up all over the grocery store providing people with gluten free options. While I applaud efforts to give people what they want and make a little money on the gluten free train, I caution clients, (& friends too), not to get caught up in the hype. Just because an item is gluten free, does not necessarily make it a healthy choice! Take for an example a friendly little looking coconut macaroon that has been packaged in a nice bright package with the words ‘gluten free’ plastered across it. This little baby has a whopping 35 grams or nearly 9 tsp of sugar!!!! WHOA! Hold on folks! Adults are only supposed to have 6 to 9 tsp of free or added sugar per day. Children should be around the 3 tsp range. Let’s just stop for a moment and think about whether or not we actually want to eat 9 tsp of sugar at one time. There ends my sugar rant!