Gluten: Understanding the Protein and Its Impact

Gluten is a type of protein naturally found in certain grains, most commonly wheat, barley, and rye. It acts like a glue, giving dough elasticity and helping foods maintain their shape. But for some people, gluten can cause health problems.

What is Gluten Made Of?

Gluten is a combination of two proteins: gliadin and glutenin. Gliadin provides dough with its stretchiness, while glutenin gives it structure. Together, they contribute to the chewy texture of bread and other wheat-based products.

Who Needs to Avoid Gluten?

People with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder, experience an immune response when they consume gluten. This reaction damages the small intestine, leading to digestive issues and hindering nutrient absorption.

People with non-celiac gluten sensitivity also experience discomfort after eating gluten, but without the intestinal damage seen in celiac disease. Symptoms can include bloating, gas, diarrhea, fatigue, and headaches.

Living Gluten-Free

If you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, a strict gluten-free diet is essential to manage symptoms and maintain good health. This means avoiding foods with wheat, barley, and rye, but also being cautious of hidden sources of gluten, such as:

  • Processed foods and snacks
  • Sauces and dressings
  • Soups and broths
  • Beer and some alcoholic beverages
  • Certain medications and supplements

Fortunately, many delicious and nutritious gluten-free alternatives are available, including:

  • Gluten-free grains like rice, quinoa, and oats (depending on individual tolerance)
  • Corn and cornflour
  • Gluten-free flours made from almond, coconut, or chickpea
  • A variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds

By carefully reading food labels and choosing gluten-free options, people with gluten sensitivities can enjoy a healthy and balanced diet.

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Additional Considerations

  • Oats can be a source of controversy. Pure oats are naturally gluten-free, but they can become contaminated with wheat, barley, or rye during planting, harvesting, or processing. Look for oats labeled gluten-free to ensure safety.
  • If you suspect you have a gluten sensitivity, consult a doctor for diagnosis and guidance on managing your condition.

Understanding gluten and its effects can empower you to make informed dietary choices and manage your health effectively.

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