Apr 11, 2011

What is Gluten and Celiac Disease?

To put it simply, gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. This seemingly harmless protein triggers an immune response in the small intestine of people with gluten intolerance and those with celiac disease. This means the body creates antibodies to fight the gluten, thinking it is a foreign invader. In the process of fighting the gluten, the antibodies also attack the villi of the small intestine, creating all sorts of gastrointestinal and non-gastrointestinal symptoms and discomfort. Actual symptoms vary, and some afflicted with celiac disease suffer no symptoms at all. Some signs of celiac include:
  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Anemia
  • Distended abdomen
  • Bone pain
  • Joint pain
  • Fatigue
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Mineral deficiencies
  • Delayed growth in children
  • Failure to thrive in infants
  • Tooth abnormalities
  • Migraines 

Gluten is found in wheat (including kamut and spelt), barley, rye, malts and triticale. It is used as a food additive in the form of a flavoring, stabilizing or thickening agent, often hidden under "dextrin".

A gluten-free diet is the only medically accepted treatment for celiac disease, the related condition dermatitis herpetiformis, and wheat allergy. Additionally, a gluten-free diet may exclude oats, which are frequently cross-contaminated in milling facilities with wheat or other gluten-containing foods.

Here is a list of the more common gluten-free grains and flours to use for substitutes: (however, because they don't have gluten, they may not substitute exactly for regular wheat type flours, so you'll need to double-check recipes for how to substitute the flours correctly)

  • Almond flour
  • Amaranth
  • Arrowroot
  • Bean flour
  • Brown riceand flour
  • Buckwheat
  • Cassava
  • Corn flour, meal and starch
  • Dal
  • Flaxseed
  • Millet
  • Pea flour
  • Polenta
  • Potato flour
  • Quinoa
  • Rice, rice flour
  • Soy flour
  • Tapioca flour
  • Taro flour
  • Teff

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