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With all of the information coming out about gluten and gluten intolerance it is important to understand what gluten is. This article will discuss what gluten is, what kinds of foods it is often found in and why so many people are saying to eliminate it from our diet.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a mixture of proteins found in specific grains such as wheat, barley, rye, oat, and any hybrids (spelt, kamut and triticale).

These proteins are known for their elastic properties when mixed with water which give stretchiness and texture to dough when it is kneaded. The word “gluten” comes from the glue-like qualities the substance has.

What kinds of foods commonly contain gluten?

Pasta, noodles, bread, pastries, crackers, baked goods (cakes, cookies, pie crust, brownies), cereal, granola, most breakfast foods made from batter or dough, breading, croutons, sauces and gravy (because they use flour as a thickener), traditional soy sauce, flour tortillas, beer and all malt beverages, imitation bacon bits, and brewer’s yeast.

Food ingredients that commonly contain gluten

Atta, barley, brewer’s yeast, bulgur, chapatti flour, dinkel, durum, einkorn wheat, emmer, farina, farro, fu, graham, graham flour, hydrolyzed wheat protein, kamut, malt, malted milk, malt extract, malt flavoring, malt syrup, malt vinegar, matzo, matzo meal, modified wheat starch, oat bran, oat flour, oatmeal, rye, rye flour, seitan, semolina, soy sauce, spelt, triticale, wheat, wheatberries, wheat bran, wheat flour, wheat germ, and wheat starch.

Why avoid gluten?

It is already known that gluten is unhealthy for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. In these cases the immune system attacks the gluten proteins, but also at the same time attacks the intestinal wall causing inflammation, pain, nutritional issues, digestive issues, anemia and fatigue.

However, not all people with celiac disease demonstrate abdominal symptoms, leading some to believe that celiac disease goes undiagnosed in many people who have it, but don’t know it.

It is also theorized that many people have some level of gluten sensitivity and just aren’t aware of it, because they don’t have discomfort, or don’t know the symptoms they have are caused by gluten.

While this is just a single study, this study conducted at Monash University in Australia indicates that gluten may cause gastrointestinal symptoms and fatigue in people who don’t have celiac disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21224837

What can I eat?

If you are looking to implement a gluten free diet, the Celiac Disease Foundation has excellent resources on establishing the right diet for you. Here’s a good place to start: https://celiac.org/live-gluten-free/glutenfreediet/food-options/