Tuesday, October 27, 2009

GLUTEN - An Introduction.

I have to tell you that I am always surprised when I meet people who don't know which foods contain gluten, but that's only because my life revolves around which food contains gluten and which doesn't. Sometimes I feel like there's a secret sub culture existing beneath the gaze of the rest of the world - the "Gluten Free" sub-culture of which I am a part.

My son, Adam, developed eczema at the grand old age of 6 weeks and for the next, almost, 2 years we spent time trialling both myself (whilst breastfeeding) and then Adam on elimination diets. Gluten is tricky, on our initial "Gluten free" elimination diet his eczema didn't improve and it was only on the second trial about a year later that we noticed a difference, the reason, gluten can take about 6 weeks to leave your system, and for some people it may take longer.

So what is gluten?

Gluten is the main protein found in many grains (see list below) and can be broken down into two parts: glutenin and gliadin, it is the gliadin, a prolamin, (simple protein) that causes adverse reactions in certain people. An intolerance to gluten may result in an inability to absorb essential nutrients in the small intestines.

Some of the initial signs and symptoms displayed by sufferers include; diarrhoea, constipation, cramping, vomiting, weight loss, fatigue, gas and bloating. As damage to the intestinal lining continues through the continued consumption of gluten and lack of treatment allergies may appear and poor digestion and malabsorption can worsen potentially leading to a condition called "Leaky gut". Leaky gut is where the sensitive lining of the bowel wall is eroded allowing a passage of microbes, toxins and undigested food (including allergens) into your system which may again lead to further illness and immune disorders.

Many people associate Coeliac Disease with a gluten free diet and this is correct, Coeliac's disease is an auto-immune disorder caused by a digestive reaction to gluten, but, not everyone with a gluten intolerance has Coeliac disease, like my son. Adam has a gluten intolerance but does not have coeliac disease. A gluten intolerance for him displays as eczema predominately, along with pain in the belly and loose stools. His symptoms increase the longer he is exposed to gluten.

So what do you do if you discover you are gluten intolerant or have Coeliac disease, well the best thing to do is eliminate gluten from your diet, and, reading food labels is essential. Gluten is found in many common foods including bread, slices, pizza, cakes, pasta, biscuits and flour, and, can be found in a multitude of pre-packaged foods, condiments, sweets, drinks and even some supplements and vitamins. Eliminating gluten from your diet is the first step in the treatment, seeing a natural therapist to help repair the lining of your gut is also recommended.

Following is a list of grains that contain gluten -
- Wheat
- Rye
- Kamut
- Barley
- Couscous
- Bulgar
- Spelt
- Oats and Oatbran
- Malt
- Matzo
- Triticale
- Udon
- Semolina

Gluten, part 2, will continue with recommendations on food alternatives, dietary advice and recipes.

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