September is National Whole Grains Month – Let’s talk Gluten

-Toni Sicola, Executive Editor, Health and Wellness Professional

Gluten Intolerance does not a celiac make.

As we move into September, National Whole Grains Month, I wanted to highlight a buzzing topic that’s gotten lots of folks curious – Gluten. What is it? How might it be affecting you? What sort of food choices should you make if you’re considering going Gluten-Free?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye (the main ingredients in most breads, cookies, cake, crackers, and countless other processed food products). In the bodies of those with celiac disease, gluten causes an auto-immune response, gradually damaging the intestines and preventing the absorption of vitamins and minerals, thus creating all sorts of related health problems. These problems can include intestinal pain, fatigue, drastic weight loss, additional food reactions, rashes, and acne.

New research shows that there’s a spectrum of gluten intolerance, and even if you test negative for Celiac Disease, gluten could still cause some problems for you. According to the Center for Celiac Disease at the University of Maryland, one in seven people have a non-celiac gluten intolerance – a reaction to gluten similar to those with celiac, but without the auto-immune component. In fact, Daniel Leffler, M.D., an expert on the subject, says that gluten is fairly indigestible in all people, and that there’s probably some level of gluten intolerance in everyone.

Why has this become such a problem?

Over the past couple of decades, genetically engineered wheat has gradually increased in gluten levels, adding an exponential amount into the Standard American Diet (SAD). Additionally, wheat is a subsidized agricultural product, which results in surplus. That means that manufacturers have to find some place to use the surplus wheat. Gluten ends up in the adhesive of postage stamps, in our facial products, toothpaste, lipstick, and various other items you’d never imagine would contain wheat. The ubiquity of gluten has resulted in far more sensitivity than there was decades ago.

What can you do?

If you’re thinking about doing an experimental gluten elimination diet, there is a lot of great alternatives out there, but they range in healthy properties. As with any diet, it’s best to stick with whole grains like quinoa, millet, and brown rice, but you can also find breads and pastas made out of these same ingredients. You might also consider crackers or snacks made from seeds and sprouted veggies. Have a look at the chart below to give you an idea of what might be helpful if you are considering eliminating gluten. You can also do a quick search online for gluten-free bakeries in your area to learn more about what types of delicious confections can be made gluten-free.

During the month of September, we will be offering some fun and delicious gluten-free recipes for you to try – you might find you don’t miss the gluten at all.

Glutenous Grains

Gluten-Free Grains

Foods to Enjoy

Foods to Avoid (sneaky gluten), unless specified as g/f on the label
Wheat (faro, spelt, durum, kamut, matzo meal) Quinoa Fresh meats, fish, poultry (make sure any marinade you use is g/f Soy sauce/teriyaki sauce/worcestershire sauce
Barley Rice Dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt, butter) limited quantity Anything with “dextrin” on the label
Rye Corn Fruits Anything with “malt flavoring” on the label
Farina Buckwheat Vegetables Anything with “modified food starch” on the label
Graham flour Amaranth Legumes and flours made from legumes (garbanzo, fava) Imitation seafood
Semolina Teff Potatoes (preferably sweet potatoes or yams) Beer
Durham Millet Nuts and seeds  and flours made from nuts and seeds Most commercial salad dressings
Bulgur Sorghum Gluten-free flours (arrowroot, chestnuts, potato, tapioca, rice, potato, buckwheat) limited quantities Textured vegetable protein (veggie burgers and processed soy foods)
Triticale Oats* Wine

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