Discover How Gluten Interacts with Your Food

Gluten and gluten-free foods have recently become prominent ever since gluten sensitivity was recognized as a condition. Now, plenty of food manufacturers are offering gluten-free alternatives and more and more people are adopting gluten-free diets. Of the approximately 105 million Americans on a gluten-free diet, approximately less than 1% has been diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Why is gluten so divisive? What is Celiac Disease, and how does it affect the body?

Most commonly found in wheat, rye and barley, gluten is a mixture of proteins. In fact, gluten is often used as an additive to other foods in order to add protein. Known for its elasticity, gluten helps flour dough rise and take shape. As a result, most breads and baked goods contain gluten.

What Are the Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance or Sensitivity?

Some of the most common symptoms of gluten intolerance range from constipation and diarrhea to fatigue and headaches. Symptoms can be severe or mild, depending on the individual and the amount of gluten products consumed at a given time. It is even possible to not outwardly experience any traditional symptoms at all.

Common gluten sensitivity symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Bloating
  • Malnutrition
  • Anemia or iron deficiency
  • Osteoporosis
  • Nausea
  • Stunted growth (in teens and children)

There are even more potential symptoms unrelated to the gastrointestinal system. This includes everything from rashes to depression and anxiety. If you believe you are suffering from celiac disease or a gluten disorder, it is important to meet with your health care professional before arranging any changes to your diet.

What If I Suspect a Gluten Allergy?

If you suspect that you have celiac disease, it is best to see a doctor or other qualified health care professional before changing your diet. Those that put themselves on a gluten-free diet can make it more difficult to diagnose celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Why Are Gluten Allergies Now Common?

While there is a lot of speculation as to the sudden rise in gluten-related disorders, the increase has more to do with medical advances than anything else. Gluten sensitivity was only officially recognized in 2010 and diagnosing celiac disease (also called coeliac disease) has become easier for doctors as the disease is further researched.

Since gluten is found in so many foods and a source of necessary nutrients, it was long believed an allergy or intolerance could not be possible. With gluten present in most breads and baked goods and commonly used as an additive, it can be hard to narrow down gluten as the source of digestive problems. Now, doctors recognize this condition requires treatment, often a gluten-free diet supplemented by gluten substitutes to avoid malnutrition.

Common nutritional deficiencies from gluten intolerance include:

  • Calcium
  • Fiber
  • Iron
  • Zinc

Maintaining the right level of vitamins and minerals while going gluten-free can be difficult.

Gluten-related disorders include celiac disease, gluten intolerance or sensitivity, and wheat allergies. There are blood tests and biopsies available for diagnosing celiac disease, though there is currently no standard for testing gluten sensitivity. Sometimes the only solution is to start a gluten-free diet. Fortunately, Lee’s Household Flour Mill has made it easier than ever to go gluten-free with home milled flour.

What should be considered when going gluten-free?

Gluten free diets and products are often low in B vitamins, calcium, vitamin D, iron, zinc, magnesium, and fiber. Dieters tend to consume more calories from fat, and fewer from carbohydrates. A study of long-term adult celiac patients treated with a gluten-free diet found that half showed signs of a poor vitamin status. Maintaining proper nutrition while on a gluten-free diet can be challenging – vitamin and mineral therapy may be used to supplement a gluten-free diet, so guidance from a healthcare professional is advisable. If you need help finding one, we can help get you started here.

Non-Gluten Grains

The Lee Household Flour Mill helps those with gluten intolerance mill their own gluten-free flour. Some of the potential substitutes to wheat, rye, and barley are oats, buckwheat and quinoa. Purchasing premade, gluten-free flour can become expensive and doesn’t allow you to completely control potential gluten exposure. By cooking or milling your own grains at home, you can oversee the process from start to finish, ensuring no accidental gluten makes it into your food.

How do I select gluten-free products if I don’t make them myself?

Identifying gluten-free products at the grocery store can be difficult. Beyond breads, cereals and pastas, gluten can be found in frozen vegetables, condiments, supplements, medications, and toothpaste. To further complicate the matter, the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that 5% of foods labeled as gluten free did not meet FDA gluten-free labeling guidelines.

Cross-contamination, or cross-contact, should also be considered when selecting foods that are part of an allergen restricted diet. Cross-contact occurs when one food comes in contact with another and their proteins mix. This is often invisible to the naked eye. In the case of gluten, cross-contact can occur during harvesting, storing, processing, packaging and preparation. An ingredient that is gluten-free in its natural state can contain gluten by the time it makes it to your dinner plate.

Your best defense starts with reading the ingredients list. Look for malt syrups and malt extracts. Manufacturers that label products as gluten free sometimes overlook these ingredients. On the other hand, ingredients such as wheat, barley or rye may be allowed in foods labeled as gluten free, as long as their concentration is less than 20 parts per million (ppm). If you still have concerns, contact the manufacturer and ask whether or not they test their foods for the presence of gluten. For example, at Royal Lee Organics, each lot of our gluten-free grains is tested using FDA recommended methods.

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