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Gluten and all that negative press

What is gluten? Why do some folks get a nasty reaction to it?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley or rye. And folks who are allergic to it, well they have something known as Celiac disease, i.e. the inability to digest gluten. It manifests as GI side effects (intestinal complications), rash, blisters on the skin, and in the worse case scenario, death.


This is because, when the stomach is exposed to gluten it becomes inflamed and this results in poor absorption of nutrients, including iron, vitamin D and calcium. For people with celiac disease, following a gluten-free diet is the only effective treatment. But many folks are not intolerant to gluten but due to the negative press that Gluten gets, they omit it from their diet anyway. Experts estimate that about 1% of Americans have celiac disease only – i.e. a minority.. not a whole lot. And those statistics can roughly transpose to the rest of the world too, no doubt.

Gluten itself doesn’t offer special nutritional benefits. But many whole grains that contain gluten do. They’re rich in an array of vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins and iron, as well as fiber. Studies show that whole grain foods, as part of a healthy diet, may help lower risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer. So do you really need to be gluten free, if you aren’t Celiac? I think not.

Anyway, for those who are Celiac, however, the good news is that there are many other whole grains and pseudo-grains that are gluten-free are readily accessible these days. Grains that don’t contain gluten, include amaranthquinoa and millet. Meeting the dietary guidelines goal is very tough if you have to eliminate wheat, barley, rye and other gluten-containing whole grains. Some celiac disease experts warn patients to steer clear of oats, as well. Although it has been found that some types of oats have a naturally occurring level of gluten, or a protein that closely resembles gluten, in general oats are believed to be a naturally gluten-free product. Unfortunately, by the time it gets from the field to your plate, it mostly likely is no longer free of gluten. The main reason for this is due to cross-contamination of the oats with other, non-gluten-free crops during harvesting and processing.


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