What’s the Deal with Gluten?

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by Carol Kicinski on January 27, 2008

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In response to a number of emails and conversations I have had recently, I decided to write a post on gluten. First of all, let me just make this perfectly clear – I am not a doctor! Nor am I a scientist, a nutritionist or any kind of practitioner of any sort – except maybe some black magic in the kitchen. This is just what I have learned from research and personal experience.

First, some statistics. A couple weeks ago Dr. Christiane Northrup, author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom and The Wisdom of Menopause, was on the Oprah Show and stated that 1 out of every 4 women suffer from gluten intolerance. I have heard other statistics ranging from 1 in 22 people to 1 in 10 people. The problem with statistics is that it is really hard to know for sure. Many people go around suffering some effect of gluten but are totally unaware of what is going on. And there are degrees of gluten intolerance ranging from full-on Celiac Disease (an autoimmune disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food) to sub-clinical Celiac Disease (a milder form of Celiac which is harder to detect and may be responsible for the malfunctioning of the thyroid as well as the adrenals) and gluten sensitivity (a temporary sensitivity to gluten due to over consumption).

In any case, my guess it that LOTS of people cannot tolerate gluten.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a sticky protein found in wheat, rye and barley. It is also in most oats – not because of the oat itself, but because of the way it is processed. It is what makes pizza dough so stretchy, bread rise and pasta hold together. Gluten is also the substance that can make you pretty ill if you can’t tolerate it.

To get a more technical explanation, click here.

How can gluten affect the body?

Remember when you were a kid and you made paste (glue!) out of flour and water? Well that gives you a clue. It gums up the works.

People who cannot tolerate gluten can suffer from a wide variety of ailments including seizures, bloating, intestinal problems, compromised immune systems, depression, anxiety, ADHA, autism, adrenal exhaustion, and thyroid problems, just to name a few of the not so pleasant results.

What’s the cure?

Unfortunately, there is no CURE for gluten intolerance or Celiac Disease. The only thing you can do is stay away from gluten. Don’t eat it! Most people will start to feel better within days of removing gluten from their diets if they can’t tolerate it.

Where does it hide?

Now staying away from gluten sounds simple enough. OK, no more bread, pizza, pasta. Piece of cake (pardon the pun!) Oh, if only it were that simple.

Unfortunately, gluten hides out in many places you would not immediately think. Like jelly beans, popsicles, processed meats, canned tomato soup, soy sauce. A huge amount of processed food contains gluten. As does some lipstick, soaps, shampoos, toothpaste, vitamins, nutritional supplements and medicine.

Some things to look out for on food labels include:

Modified food starch
Textured vegetable protein
Caramel color

For a good list of safe products click here and unsafe products click here.

The point is beware. Read. Educate yourself. Don’t just assume that the turkey you are about to put in your mouth is safe.

So what now?

My philosophy is not to look at what you CAN’T EAT but what you CAN EAT. There is a whole big beautiful world of naturally gluten-free foods out there. Vegetables, fruit, un-processed meats, most cheeses, fish, seafood. The world of gluten-free eating is abundant.

There are also really great gluten-free alternatives for breads, cookies, pastries and cakes.

My advice is first stay away from the gluten-free alternatives until your taste buds have a chance to re-adjust. Then experiment. Find the brands you like. Buy an automatic bread maker and utilize the gluten-free bread mixes and enjoy freshly baked gluten-free bread.

Personally, I can live without bread and pasta. What I can’t live without is good health, vigor and energy.

Celebrate the abundance of gluten-free living and the rewards will be plentiful.

I hope this helps a little.


What’s the deal with gluten? – Simply Gluten Free

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

maddi January 28, 2008 at 11:13 am

your photos are beautiful.
when i cook it doesn’t look anything like yours! i sure wish that it did — things taste better when they’re nice to look at.
i’ll add your link to my list, and thanks for the blogging welcome!


bigfish_chin January 30, 2008 at 12:32 pm

Gluten Free… yeaaa!!!
Health and Wealth ~ Health always come first :)


The girl who took out gluten February 1, 2008 at 2:24 pm

Wow!! Good job on informing the public. I will send more people to your site. They keep asking me questions, but my answer is always..research it. I am so mean.


Susan G February 1, 2008 at 7:27 pm

You are such an inspiration! Even for the merely (trying to be) wheat free, everything you’ve posted is worth making for its own sake. I appreciate your attitude (because it’s what I’ve often recommended) that focus should be on what you can do. Now I have to buy that microplane, take the Pampered Chef mandoline out of the box and make the zucchini, lemon pesto, then on to… how about all the rest?


Sally Parrott Ashbrook February 4, 2008 at 8:17 pm

My doctor thinks it is about 1 in 4 as well.

Great post! Very informative.


Dean August 19, 2009 at 5:58 am

THANK YOU!! We have recently went gluten free for my son 11 year old, oh what a struggle.We need all the guidance we can get, so much out there to know, your site really helped! I will use often…


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