• Kathryn Wilson

What’s Is Gluten and Why Do People Avoid It

Updated: Apr 25

Your cousin and another friend have gone gluten-free, and you've seen the signs strewn around the place, from grocery store shelves to restaurant menus and food magazines. In 2016, the gluten-free food industry created more than $15 billion in revenue, reflecting the raising knowledge of gluten sensitivity.

So, what exactly is the gluten issue? Why are certain people gluten-free, and is it feasible to be both gluten-free and keto?

What exactly is gluten?

Gluten refers to a group of proteins known as prolamins, which are found in cereal grains such as barley, rye, and wheat. Glutenins and gliadins are wheat prolamins, secalins are rye prolamins, and hordeins are barley prolamins.

The gluten family of proteins (prolamins) offers a variety of culinary advantages, including the smooth, chewy appearance seen in many gluten-containing, grain-based foods. When cooked, gluten proteins form a stretchy, elastic network that traps gas and allows for optimum leavening or growing as well as moisture retention in pasta, pizza, and other related items.

Gluten is commonly applied to packaged foods to enhance texture and moisture preservation due to its unusual physical properties.

What Causes Gluten Intolerance in Some People?

Any medical illnesses, such as stomach diseases, autoimmune disease, and celiac disease, necessitate a gluten-free diet as part of their recovery plan. Many people claim that excluding this protein from their diet helped them through anything from headaches to arthritic discomfort.

You may have already learned about celiac disease, a debilitating autoimmune disorder in which the immune system destroys small intestine cells while gluten is consumed. Celiac syndrome is one of the most well-studied forms of gluten intolerance, affecting about 1% of the world's population.

While the precise cause of celiac disease is unknown, there is clear evidence that it has a genetic aspect. While medical therapies for celiac disease are being investigated, the most commonly known and successful therapy is a gluten-free diet. Celiac disorder can be fatal in the most serious cases.

Gluten Sensitivity in Non-Celiacs

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is a term that describes negative effects caused by gluten intake that go away after gluten is removed from the diet of individuals that don't have a wheat deficiency or celiac disease.

More study on NCGS is required, but the current treatment includes maintaining a gluten-free diet.

Wheat Intolerance

Few may have a wheat allergy, which is similar to though not identical to gluten sensitivity. Wheat reactions are a reaction of the whole wheat grain, not just the gluten protein. A person with a wheat allergy must avoid wheat, but gluten from non-wheat sources such as rye or barley may be consumed.

Since the two ingredients are too closely related and found in the same foods, most people with a wheat allergy consume a largely gluten-free diet.

Some health researchers claim that industrial agricultural methods such as pesticide and chemical spraying, as well as genetic engineering of crops like wheat, are contributing to the rise of gluten-related illnesses. Wheat is one of the most genetically engineered crops on the market. To prevent or restrict these concerns, use organic and non-GMO (non-genetically modified) food items where they are inexpensive and available.

What are the signs and symptoms of gluten sensitivity?

Gluten intolerance can cause a variety of symptoms, including:

Digestive problems: Bloating, stomach pain, constipation, bowel inflammation, and diarrhea are also symptoms of a gastrointestinal infection.

Skin Issues: Eczema, rash, and skin inflammation are all symptoms of eczema.

Neurological Issues: Fatigue, nausea, numbness, confusion, loss of attention, difficulty communicating, and exhaustion are all signs of depression.

Other: Nutrient deficiency, weight loss, anemia, headaches, osteoporosis, and weakened immune function are all symptoms of a weakened immune system.

The concern with gluten is that you do not experience signs for one to three days. For eg, if you eat gluten on Monday and then have a headache or nausea on Wednesday, you are unlikely to connect the two events.

Before undertaking any lifestyle modifications, consult a doctor or healthcare professional if you suspect you have gluten sensitivity. Although you've already removed gluten from your diet, some gluten-related testing procedures can give you false results.

Any signs that seem to be gluten allergies could simply be a reaction to something else, so see a doctor to make sure you're on the correct track for your digestive and overall health.

What Foods Are Gluten-Free?

Gluten can be found in a variety of raw and processed foods, including:

Grains: include wheat bran, whole wheat, barley, rye, spelt, triticale, kamut, couscous, semolina, bulgur, farina, einkorn, wheat germ, durum, matzo, cracked wheat, and mir.

Processed Grain-Based Products: bread, crackers, pasta, breadcrumbs, wheat-based soba noodles, few veggie burgers, sweets, pastries, seitan

Other Foods and Beverages: malt vinegar, barley sugar, some salad dressings, some sauces or gravies thickened with flour, soy sauce, bouillon, and some broths, flavored popcorn, some beers even wines, and some seasoning blends

Gluten is sometimes used as a thickener or stabilizer in food, but it's not really easy to tell whether anything contains gluten. Cross-contamination can occur when commercial food operations share preparation equipment and machinery with gluten-containing foods. And if a food is gluten-free by nature, it may be polluted with gluten during production if it is produced in a facility that also produces gluten-containing foods.

Whether you're on a gluten-free diet for nutritional or medical purposes and are uncertain about a food's status, search the packaging for a gluten-free sticker, call the seller, or just skip the product.

Keep in mind that oats are often shipped and processed on the same machines as wheat, resulting in widespread oat contamination, even though the contamination isn't mentioned on the packaging. Oats that are branded or licensed gluten-free should be easy to come by, although some researchers say there is no such thing as gluten-free oats due to contamination, so they should be avoided as well.

It's worth noting that most grains, including oats, contain structurally related gluten-like proteins. According to some studies, people who have gluten intolerances or allergies may also have problems with these other related proteins, and they may benefit from preventing or restricting all grains. This is identical to the paleolithic diet, which excludes both beans, wheat, and dairy where possible.

What Does "Gluten-Free" Mean on a Product Label?

To support those who may stick to a gluten-free diet, several government health agencies have adopted gluten-free product labeling legislation. These labels make things easy to prevent gluten, however they aren't always correct.

Gluten-free labels are allowed in the United States, Canada, and the European Union if the food contains fewer than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. In other words, gluten can be used in up to 20% of a million pieces of produce. According to some evidence, most individuals with gluten allergy are unlikely to experience adverse reactions at this low stage, so the 20ppm standard was set in the United States. The limit has been set as low as 3ppm in some countries.

If you have a severe gluten intolerance, you should avoid all grain-based products, or at the very least gluten-containing grains like wheat, barley, and rye. You could try a paleo diet for a while, avoiding grains and beans to see how you feel.

Remember, you can also use substitutes. Why not try any spicy air-fried pork rind nuggets or banana pancakes made with almond or coconut flour?

You possibly associate gluten with fluffy, doughy, buttery bread. If you're gluten-free and keto, you don't have to lose out; prioritize your health and enjoy a keto-approved glutenless bread!

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