(11/20/12) - It is showing up on food labels everywhere: "Gluten Free". Still,
if you are trying to ditch gluten from your diet, it can be confusing.
The whole "gluten free" diet started as a treatment for people who have Celiac disease or an intolerance to gluten. It's estimated 10 percent of us fall into one of those categories.
Gluten is a protein found in some grains, like wheat, barley and rye, that triggers an autoimmune response in someone who has a sensitivity. That reaction can cause anything from severe digestive symptoms, to depression, anxiety, joint pain and fatigue.
"Gluten is the protein in the wheat that makes it sticky, gives bread the rise and the stickiness," says Marjie Andrejciw, a holistic counselor.
While bread and other carbohydrate rich foods are usually choc full of gluten, going gluten free is not the same as going carb free. Our bodies need carbohydrates to function.
But gluten is another story, says Dr. Marcy Klein of McLaren Medical Center. "Gluten isn't something we are supposed to eat as humans. It's actually hard for us to break it down."
Still people have been eating wheat, barley and rye laden foods for ages, so why is it that more people are having trouble with it now?
"Genetically modified food was first introduced into the food supply in the United States in 1996, and we have seen huge growth in food intolerance with the increase of genetically modified foods into our food supply," says Andrejciw, who owns Marjie's Gluten and Dairy Free Pantry in Fenton.
Dr. Klein says, if you suspect you have a sensitivity to gluten, there is a very simple way to "test" for it. "If you just cut out the gluten in your diet and you feel better, that's a pretty good sign that you shouldn't be eating it."
Marjie says going gluten free the healthy way is not as simple as grabbing anything with "gluten free" on the label. "Because you are just replacing one problem with another. Gluten free crackers, while they are delicious, still have a lot of refined carbohydrates in them and a lot of sugars and those types of things."
In fact, gluten free on the label may hold no guarantee something is actually gluten free, according to Marjie. "I have found products that say they're gluten free, but they will have something in them like malted barley, and that has gluten in it."
Gluten is also in foods you might not expect, like salad dressings, condiments and even marsh-mellows. Ultimately, Marjie says, your safest bet is to shoot for foods that have the fewest ingredients on the label.
According to Marjie, about 85 percent of people who are gluten intolerant are also dairy intolerant. Dr. Klein says, if you have an autoimmune disease already, like MS, Hashimoti's or Rheumatoid Arthritis, chances are you have a gluten sensitivity as well.
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