Over the past several years, there has been an explosion of interest in eating gluten free foods and gluten free flours. While part of this may be due in part to the American public’s hunger for any new diet which offers hope, however slim, of reducing waistlines, much of the interest in gluten-free foods comes from an increasing awareness of celiac disease and wheat allergies.
WHAT IS CELIAC DISEASE?
Celiac disease is intolerance to wheat gluten, even in trace amounts. Just eating something which has come into contact with wheat causes the immune system to release antibodies that attack and damage lining of the small intestine. The damage limits the ability of patients to absorb nutrients, increasing the risk of health problems related to malnutrition.
WHAT IS GLUTEN INTOLERANCE?
Although less serious than celiac disease, gluten intolerance is also a growing problem. Also known as “wheat sensitivity” or a wheat allergy, it causes abdominal pain ranging from mild to severe.
Whether it’s celiac disease or wheat sensitivity, those afflicted by it have to be constantly on guard about what they eat. Every label has to be carefully read to make sure there are no wheat products inside and the food was not packaged in a facility where wheat products are also packaged. With such strict restrictions, it’s no wonder many have chosen to mill their own gluten-free flours at home.
CAUSE OF CELIAC DISEASE
Although generally considered a hereditary disease, research done by Dr. Joseph Murray, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, suggests an environmental cause. Murray’s research shows there has actually been an increase in the prevalence of celiac disease. By comparing blood samples of 9,000 young adults taken 50 years ago with recent blood samples from young adults in the same part of the country, Murray and his research team found celiac disease is four times more common now that it was 50 years ago.
Murray hypothesizes that the cause is related to wheat hybridization, use of oxidizers, and chemical processes potentially affect immune systems in unknown ways. Murray also hypothesizes that improvements in hygiene over the last 50 years have result in an underdeveloped human immune system (National Institutes of Health (NIH)).
In the 1950s, Dr. Royal Lee shared similar concerns and wrote of the “new” hybrid corn, identifying that it lacked an important natural component, B12. (Lee, 1953)
CELIAC DISEASE TREATMENT
Currently, there is no known cure for celiac disease. In diagnosing celiac disease, blood tests are used to screen for gluten autoantibodies and intestinal biopsy is used to assess gut damage. (Celiac Support Association, 2015) The only treatment possible is starting a gluten-free diet and other lifestyle changes as recommended by your doctor (Celiac Support Foundation). This means cutting out any food made with wheat or other gluten-rich ingredients. Continued gluten consumption can lead to additional health problems. Depending on the extent of your treatment, nutrient supplements may be required to replace nutrients lost from giving up gluten. Always check with your physician before beginning a supplement regiment. (Celiac Disease Foundation)
GLUTEN-FREE FLOURS TO THE RESCUE
Fortunately, those with celiac disease or intolerance to wheat gluten have considerably more options than they did in the past.
Besides being able to purchase pre-packaged gluten-free flours in most supermarkets, the availability of our home flour mill makes it possible to mill gluten-free flour at home. Grains such as buckwheat, quinoa and oats are all readily available.
The following gluten-free flours can be used in a wide range of recipes. For a look at which gluten-free flours can be produced with the Lee Household Flour Mill, see our Flourpedia.
Gluten-Free Flours (Association)
- Arrowroot flour
- Bean flours (Chick pea, fava bean, pinto bean and other beans)
- Buckwheat flour
- Chia flour
- Coconut flour
- Corn flour
- Oat flour*
- Potato flour
- Quinoa flour
- Rice flour (brown or white rice)
- Sorghum flour
- Tapioca flour
- Teff flour
*Some flours may not be gluten free due to content, contact, or contamination. Oats from Royal Lee Organics have a gluten limit of less than 20 parts per million (ppm) in accordance with the FDA’s Gluten and Food Labeling requirements.
Allergic to gluten? Avoid These Flours:
- Wheat (wheat berries, wheat germ, wheatgrass—wheat in any form!)
THINKING OUTSIDE THE FLOUR BOX
Whether you choose to cook with organic gluten-free flour out of necessity or curiosity, you will broaden your culinary horizons and will likely find the flavors and textures of home-milled flour more preferable than recipes prepared with the store-bought flour you’ve used for so long.