What is Gluten?
Gluten is a family of proteins found in grains, including wheat, rye, spelt, and barley. Wheat is the most common form of gluten from the grains listed.
When flour mixes with water, the gluten proteins form a sticky network that has a glue-like consistency. This glue like property makes the dough elastic and gives bread the ability to rise during baking. It also provides a chewy, satisfying texture. Interestingly, the name “gluten” comes from this glue-like property of wet dough.
Gluten can be found in many types of foods, even ones that would not be expected. While wheat is the most common, there are three main gluten substances including: wheat, barley and rye.
Wheat is a yellowish grain used to make flour.
Wheat is commonly found in:
- baked goods
- salad dressings
Barley, a member of the grass family, is a major cereal grain grown in temperate climates globally. It was one of the first cultivated grains, particularly in Eurasia as early as 10,000 years ago.
Barley is commonly found in:
- malt (malted barley flour, malted milk and milkshakes, malt extract, malt syrup, malt flavoring, malt vinegar)
- food coloring
- Brewer’s Yeast
Rye is a cereal plant that tolerates poor soils and low temperatures.
Rye is commonly found in:
- rye bread, such as pumpernickel
- rye beer
Gluten Intolerance and/or Sensitivity
There has been research on gluten intolerance and/or sensitivity and Celiac Disease. Gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance has been coined to describe those individuals who cannot tolerate gluten and experience symptoms similar to those with celiac disease yet lack the same antibodies and intestinal damage as seen in celiac disease. Celiac Disease is an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.Over time, the immune reaction to eating gluten creates inflammation that damages the small intestine’s lining, leading to medical complications. It also prevents absorption of some nutrients
Let’s consider a person without Celiac Disease but an intolerance or sensitivity to gluten. Research has categorized gluten intolerance and sensitivity to be less severe than Celiac disease. However, many of the symptoms are the same. People with non-celiac gluten sensitivity have a prevalence of extraintestinal or non-GI symptoms, such as headache, “foggy mind,” joint pain, and numbness in the legs, arms or fingers. Symptoms typically appear hours or days after gluten has been ingested, a response typical for innate immune conditions like non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Gluten intolerances and sensitivities are not the same as allergies. In fact, someone can experience an intolerance or sensitivity and test negative to having a gluten allergy.