What is Gluten?
Gluten is a binding protein found in certain grains – all wheat (durum, semolina, faro, kamut, einkorn, graham, spelt), rye and barley. (It’s also in triticale which is a mixture of wheat and rye.) Gluten is what gives elasticity to dough that give it it’s shape.
A Word About Oats
Oats do not naturally contain gluten. (http://www.cureceliacdisease.org/archives/faq/do-oats-contain-gluten) However, there can be two problems with oats. First, some, especially those who have Celiac, may have sensitivity to oats due to the protein avenin found in them, although not all with Celiac will have issues with oats. (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oat_sensitivity.) Second, oats can also be a problem for those due to cross-contamination.
Those who are not sensitive to oats may prefer to buy certified gluten-free oats, which are processed in a facility where no gluten-containing grains are processed. In addition, some like to soak their oats before cooking and consuming to reduce phytates (see Information on Soaking Grains, Nuts, Legumes to Reduce Phytates).
Symptoms of Gluten Issues
Symptoms of gluten issues can be delayed. Some people report having delayed symptoms around three days after consuming gluten, lasting days or even months. Symptoms of gluten issues can include:
- stomach ache
- leaky gut syndrome
- brain fog
- joint pain
- tingling in fingers or feet
- chronic fatigue
- ADHD Autistic behavior
- and more
Note that not all people who have gluten issues have gastrointestinal symptoms. I didn’t.
What to Look for on Labels
The following items contain gluten:
- barley malt
- barley starch
- breading and coating mixes or packets
- communion wafers (see here for info on very low gluten-communion hosts)
- matzo meal
- natural or artificial flavoring or coloring
- soy sauce
- sprouted wheat
- wheat (durum, wheat germ, wheat bran, wheat meal, wheat stabilizers, wheat starch, white flour, whole wheat, einkorn)
Cross-Contamination in the Farmer’s Fields?
Beans and Buckwheat flour don’t naturally contain gluten, but cross-contamination in the farmer’s fields may be an issue if you’re really sensitive to gluten. Educate yourself and use your judgment.
Also, additives can sometimes mean gluten:
- dextrinhydrolyzed vegetable protein
- starch or modified food starch (can be corn or other starches, too)
- caramel color
Obvious gluten-containing foods like bread and crackers are easy to avoid. But some “hidden” gluten-containing foods include:
- bouillon cubes
- brown rice syrup
- corn tortillas
- dressings, like ranch
- energy bars or protein bars
- french fries (not just from cross-contamination in the fryer, some have wheat in the ingredient list)
- imitation seafood like fake crab meat
- lunch meat
- oat bran or oat germ
- rice like box mixes
- spices and spice mixes
- sauces, such as ketchup, honey mustard, barbecue sauce
Besides food, what else do I need to make sure is GF?
- Beauty Products
- Cleaning Products
- Dental Products including dental glue, paste, etc.
- lipstick, lip gloss
- Vitamins and other Supplements
Worried about your beauty products? Check out my list.
Prepared Gluten-Free Foods
Be careful with prepared gluten-free foods. Even though they might be gluten-free, they are often heavily processed and loaded with preservatives or sugar, which are not good for achieving or maintaining a healthy gut. A good rule of thumb is to try to get foods as “whole” as they can get: meat, veggies, fruit, dairy, eggs, gains (if you can have them), avoiding allergens or sensitivities, of course.
Gluten Issues and Dairy
Some people with gluten issues have issues with dairy, at least until they heal their gut. For those with Celiac, the villi that are damaged with Celiac Disease can’t produce the lactase enzyme, so depending on the extent of the damage, they may need to avoid lactose until the villi are healed enough to properly digest lactose.
Soaking Grains, Nuts, Legumes to Reduce Phytates
Many people, especially those who have gut issues, prefer to soak their oats overnight in luke-warm water, which helps reduce the phytates, which are difficult to digest. The following links contain useful information about soaking grains, nuts, and legumes.
Fermented Sourdough Grains can be Gluten-free
Fermented grains can have health benefits for those with gut issues. Read: http://wholenewmom.com/recipes/gluten-free-sourdough-starter/
Flours, Starches, etc.
Eliminating gluten from your diet doesn’t mean you will have to miss the foods you enjoy, but you will have to find alternatives, if your gut health allows them. Flours and starches that you can experiment with include:
- Brown Rice or White Rice
- Coconut Garbanzo
- Guar Gum
- Nut Flours such as almond, hazelnut
- Oats (certified gluten-free)
- Potato Starch
- Seeds such as Chia, Flax, Hemp
- Tapioca Starch
- Xanthan Gum
Note that Guar Gum and Xanthan Gum are binding agents which add elasticity, but they can become quite gummy when too much is used.
Gluten-free may not be enough for those with Leaky Gut Syndrome (consider fermented grains, at least):