People want to learn about gluten for different reasons. Some are interested in how gluten helps give bread that elastic quality but others who suffer from diseases like celiac disease or gluten intolerance want to learn about how to eliminate gluten from their diet.
While gluten intolerance can display symptoms of discomfort, those symptoms subside. Simple gluten intolerance isn't an allergy and most often doesn't cause damage, but if you have the more serious intolerance known as celiac disease it's another story. For those with celiac disease, gluten actually triggers the body's immune system. As a result the immune system damages the villi in the small intestine. These villi are responsible for absorbing nutrients from food. The result is malabsorption of nutrients. If celiac disease goes untreated, it can lead to other complications including anemia, osteoporosis and even cancer. All because of gluten.
More About Gluten
Gluten is a protein found in grains including wheat, rye and barley. However not all grains contain gluten. Grains friendly to a gluten free diet include foods such as amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, millet, oats, soybeans and wild rice. Another grain, teff, actually contains gluten, but doesn't contain the gluten-fraction responsible for celiac disease and can be eaten by most gluten intolerant people.
For those who need to strictly adhere to a gluten-free diet, it's important to know that when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) labels a product gluten-free, it means the majority of the gluten has been removed, but it does not necessarily mean all gluten has been isolated and removed.
Another factor to consider for people eliminating gluten from their diet is the possibility of cross contamination. If gluten-free grains such as oats are grown near wheat there's a chance they will be processed using the same equipment and even stored in the same bins. This can lead to cross contamination resulting in gluten presence where it is unsuspected.
Those who cannot eat gluten must be conscious of everything that goes into their mouths. For example, Catholics who must adhere to a gluten free diet should ask about communion wafers used in their church. Many wafers are made from wheat and contain gluten. Gluten free communion wafers are available, so talk to your parish priest and arrangements can be made to accommodate your special needs.
Once you learn about gluten, if you suspect that you may be gluten intolerant or sensitive, talk with your doctor. While simple gluten intolerance is not serious, celiac disease and the damage it can do should be taken very seriously.