260 East Tenth Street | Traverse City, MI 49684 | (231) 947-0191

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Oryana Natural Foods Market

Ask The Dietitian

All About Gluten


Why is gluten getting such a bad rap? Should I start avoiding it?
 

Gluten is everywhere. It’s in bread, pasta, cupcakes. This protein even sneaks into unexpected places like canned soup, salad dressings, and oatmeal. For most people, this is no big deal. Gluten is a key factor in giving bread its chewiness and cupcakes their airy crumb. So why give it up? 

There are three major reasons why someone might need to give up gluten: if they’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease, if they have a gluten intolerance, or if they have an allergic reaction to wheat.

Celiac Disease

According to the Mayo Clinic, people with celiac disease have an immune reaction to the gluten in wheat, rye, and barley that causes damage to the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of vital nutrients. Symptoms can be as mild as digestive problems and minor skin rashes or as severe as anemia, arthritis, and intense abdominal pain. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how many people have celiac disease in the United States, mostly because so many people go undiagnosed, but most health experts put it in the range of 2 to 3 million people.

Gluten Intolerance

There are also a large number of people who have sensitivity to gluten or are gluten intolerant. These people experience many of the same symptoms as those with celiac disease, but without the accompanying damage to the small intestine. There are also some theories and studies linking gluten intolerance to things like chronic fatigue, depression, irritability, and anxiety.

Wheat Allergy

A wheat allergy is actually a completely separate condition from gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. It’s a histamine reaction to wheat, much like a peanut allergy or a shellfish allergy. People with this allergy usually show hives, rashes, or stomach pain after consuming wheat.

In all of these cases, eliminating wheat and gluten from the diet clears up all the major symptoms. The trick is that it has to be total elimination of gluten, meaning no wheat, barley, or rye in any form. For many people, even ingesting a small amount of gluten by accident can bring on a recurrence of the symptoms.

And while many people think that gluten can be eliminated simply by removing certain foods from their diet, the truth is that gluten is in many processed food products, so going to a gluten-free lifestyle often means eating much less processed food and cooking from scratch more often.  This new lifestyle is often what leads to improved health and weight loss, not necessarily the elimination of gluten itself.  To best determine if you have a true intolerance, you may include back into your diet some whole foods that contain gluten and monitor if the symptoms return.

Gluten intolerance is not a new reaction that people are experiencing but rather newly diagnosed.  It was once thought that gluten was only a concern for those with a true allergy who could become hospitalized for the symptoms that arose from this immune reaction.  With increased awareness for personal health and well being, as well as some good research, people are discovering that it is not normal to have negative symptoms after eating good food. 

Oryana carries a wide variety of gluten-free products including pastas, baking mixes, and breads. If you’re looking for alternative, gluten-free grains, be sure to try quinoa, millet, and buckwheat, or use beans and lentils to replace your grains.