What’s the Big Deal About Gluten?

What’s the Big Deal About Gluten?

gluen free aisle

Photo: ilovememphis/Flickr.

Gluten, the protein found in wheat and products containing wheat, is hidden in many common foods. During baking, the protein makes the final product stick together. Research has shown that when gluten breaks down during digestion, it produces a mild opiate effect.

Unfortunately, gluten sensitivity is linked to common diseases such as anemia and osteoporosis. Those who are sensitive to this protein may also report a change in moods and/or cravings (among other symptoms) when gluten is removed from their diets.

Blood tests are available that determine if you or a family member are sensitive to gluten and/or have celiac disease. If blood tests are inconclusive, gene tests can be used to determine whether you have celiac disease. The most definitive test is invasive by endoscopy only if the person has been eating gluten for at least 3 months, regularly (daily ingestion).  More more information, a great site is http://www.cureceliacdisease.org/.

The symptoms of this disease can be “silent” in that they may be easily attributable to other conditions such as stress. Celiac is commonly overlooked, although the rates of incidence are on the rise perhaps due to current research and the damaging effects celiac may cause. Some gluten/ celiac marker blood tests to ask for may include: HLA-DQ2, HLA-DQ8, tTG- IgA and deaminated gliadin and antigliadin AB. If needed, additional tests are available.

If you have tested negative for celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and wheat intolerance and allergy (IgG and IgE, respectively), but continue to notice symptoms, you may be sensitive to a substance in wheat called wheat germ agglutinin (WGA). This substance is found in high concentrations in both sprouted wheat and whole wheat and can have a variety of adverse effects on the body. To read more about this topic, please see the articles by Sayer Ji noted in the Bibliography on pages 319-320 of Sweetness without Sugar. Dr. Gabriel Cousens has also written about research on lectins (sugar-binding proteins) in his book, Conscious Eating, and other publications.

On the next page is a list of foods that may contain gluten:

  • Ale
  • Baked beans
  • Baking powder
  • Barley
  • Barley malt
  • Beer
  • Bread
  • Broth with vegetable protein added
  • Brown rice syrup (certain brands)
  • Bulgur
  • Candy
  • Caramel
  • Cereal
  • Chips with seasonings
  • Citric acid
  • Coffee (some flavored coffees)
  • Cornbread
  • Couscous
  • Dairy foods (some dairy foods frequently contain gluten)
  • Dairy-free milks, sweetened with malt
  • Dessert mixes (e.g., frosting, cake and pudding mixes)
  • Dextrin
  • Dried dates dusted with flour
  • Durum wheat pasta
  • Egg substitute
  • Einkorn
  • Emergen-C
  • Emmer
  • Farro
  • Flavorings
  • Flour
  • Flour tortillas or wraps
  • Frying flour
  • Kamut
  • Lager
  • Malt
  • Maltodextrin
  • Malt vinegar
  • Malt liquor
  • Meat, especially lunch meats
  • Miso (unless made with rice koji)
  • Modified food starch
  • Oats (see Appendix and Resources section for a list of certified gluten-free oats)
  • Pasta
  • Rye
  • Seitan (“wheat meat”)
  • Semolina pasta
  • Snack foods with seasonings
  • Soup thickeners
  • Soups with vegetable protein
  • Soy sauce
  • Soy milk if sweetened with malt
  • Spelt
  • Spice and seasoning mixes (e.g. for packaged foods)
  • Tea and coffee alternatives
  • Triticale
  • Udon noodles
  • Vegetable starch
  • Wheat
  • Wheat bran
  • Wheat flour
  • Wheat germ
  • Wheat starch
  • Worcestershire sauce

Recent research has shown that some brands of rice and some products containing corn have been contaminated by wheat and/or gluten-containing grains. Currently, some brands of rice are genetically-modified. Considering the increased incidence of celiac disease, I recommend checking the source of your rice products and/or buying organic products whenever possible. Certified organic foods are grown without genetically-modified ingredients.

Note: This article is adapted from Chapter 10: Food Allergies and Sensitivities in Sweetness without Sugar.