What Does Gluten-Free Mean? Thursday, November 07 2013
It is well established in the medical world that what humans eat greatly affects how we feel in both the short and long term. Gluten has become a widespread topic of discussion as to how food products like pasta, bread and crackers may be harming us.
Gluten is a protein composite that is found in cereal grains like wheat and rye. Gluten is the Latin word for glue, and just as its etymology implies, gluten is a very sticky protein. Gluten is what makes bread rise, sauces thicken, and dairy products emulsify.
In the past 20 years a significant percentage of the population has expressed a sensitive to gluten, either from wheat allergy, gluten intolerance, or Celiac’s disease. Celiac’s disease is an extreme manifestation of this sensitivity, and it’s estimated that 1% of the world’s population has this disease, which represents about 2 million people within the United States.
With any type of gluten intolerance, undigested protein residue sticks to the walls of the small intestine and activate an autoimmune response, leading to an assault on the intestinal lining. Untreated, Celiac’s disease can lead to permanent tissue damage and loss of intestinal lining.
So why the sudden rise of gluten intolerance and Celiac’s disease?
Medical diagnostic capabilities have leaped in recent years. What was previously diagnosed as Irritable Bowel Syndrome or vitamin deficiency can now be correctly diagnosed as gluten intolerance. The only way to treat gluten intolerance is simply to avoid ingestion. Due to increasing awareness of these conditions, people have started to look at omitting gluten from their diets in hopes of relieving their digesting woes, whether they have the disease or not.
With the consumer population becoming increasingly conscious, producers will need to be able to present products that are safe for everyone to eat – be it organic, kosher, vegan, or gluten-free.