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What is gluten? What is a gluten free diet?

 
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 22, 2005 6:07 am    Post subject: What is gluten? What is a gluten free diet? Reply with quote

What is gluten?

The simple and widely accepted answer to this question is that gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, (and oats).

There is another more technically correct definition of gluten which most people don't know or use but if you would like to know the details please read on.

Gluten is a general name for prolamins or prolamines, a protein fraction found in a variety of grains. The prolamins that cause damage to people with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease include gliadin, which is found in wheat, secalin, which is found in rye, and hordein, which is found in barley.

Oats:
Whether or not oats contain gluten has been a controversial issue for years. According to Danna Korn who is the author of the book Wheat-Free, Worry-Free (see www.glutenfreedom.net) we now know that the peptide they contain, which is avenin, does not affect people who are gluten intolerant. If you read the www.celiac.com site there is however still no difinitive answer to the oats debate.
In addition there is still concern about contamination of oats so many people on a gluten free diet choose to play it safe and avoid oats.

What happens when digesting gluten?
Upon digestion, the gluten proteins break down into smaller units, called peptides (also, polypeptides or peptide chains) that are made up of strings of amino acids. One particular peptide, namely gliadin, has been shown to be harmful to celiac patients when instilled directly into the small intestine of several patients.

In the link below there is an excellent illustration of how gluten breaks down into peptides and how then immune system reacts to those peptides - it illustrates and explains the process in more detail. The article in the link is actually about research targeted at finding drug therapies for celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. It's a very interesting read.

http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20030621/bob9.asp

What is a gluten-free diet?

A gluten-free diet is a diet free of the harmful peptides from wheat, rye, barley, and (possibly) oats. This means eliminating virtually all foods made from these grains or containing derivatives from these grains (e. g., food starch when it is prepared from wheat, and malt when it comes from barley) regardless of whether these foods contain gluten in the very strict sense.

The following is Dr. Fine's answer to the question. It is copied from the www.enterolab.com site:

Gluten is a grain storage protein. Certain glutens, because of their biochemical structure and properties, incite immunologic reactions in people possessing the genes to react to them. Wheat, rye and barley contain the most inciting glutens and must be avoided by gluten sensitive persons. Oats have also been incited as damaging to celiacs and gluten sensitive people since the origin of the research discovering gluten as the cause of celiac disease in the early to mid- 20th century. Because the gluten of oats is less damaging than that of wheat, it is a given that reactions will be less severe (but not necessarily absent). Thus, recent studies showing that oats do not cause villous atrophy after being consumed by celiac disease patients for one to several years are flawed because even wheat does not always cause villous atrophy, but people still react to them immunologically. Thus, a lack of villous atrophy, or even symptoms, as the study end point cannot be equated with fully "tolerated" since immunologic reaction or intestinal malabsorptive or other dysfunction may occur (but have not yet been measured) in these individuals. Furthermore, people who do not tolerate oats because they get symptomatic could not endure a lengthy 1-2 year study. Thus, studies of the long-term affects of oats auto-select individuals who are inherently most tolerant of them. 10-20% of people entering these studies got symptomatic when introducing oats into their gluten-free diet, and were excluded or dropped out from the studies. Finally, any study designed with the hypothesis that oats are okay to eat for a celiac disease patient (which has always been the case in the "oat studies" to date) will possess this bias. A study trying to show that oats are not tolerated would be designed entirely differently, and would lean toward showing them to be damaging according to that bias. Historically, about 20% of celiacs get symptoms from oats, further supporting that oats, at least in this country, should not be consumed by gluten sensitive individuals. All oats in the United States have been found to be cross-contaminated with other gluten-containing grains. Thus, a gluten-free diet is a diet avoiding all wheat, barley, rye, and oats.

There is also plenty of both scientific data and anecdotal experience of immunologic reactions and symptoms caused by all of the grains, including those considered to be "gluten-free." Many dietary professionals do not recommend eating any grains because, in addition to contributing to immune and autoimmune reactions or intestinal symptomatic disorders, they can worsen or cause blood-sugar-related conditions, including reactive hypoglycemia, excess weight gain, prediabetes, metabolic syndrome (formerly called Syndrome X: the combination of obesity, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia), and diabetes mellitus. It is especially imperative for these reasons not to replace the gluten contaning grains ounce for ounce with other grain products. Starchy, nutritionally-poor grain-containing foods are simply not part of an optimally healthy diet.

What is the optimal way to go gluten-free?
In addition to removing obvious sources of wheat, barley, rye, and oats from your diet, you must be aware that any food commercially processed, or prepared by an individual other than you poses the risk of containing gluten. I have heard of and have experienced personally how restaurateurs, friends and/or relatives simply cannot understand, refuse to understand, or accidentally introduce gluten into the food they prepare for gluten sensitive individuals. Thus, the optimal gluten-free diet is a diet where you assume 100% control of your food preparation, and avoid as much as possible commercially processed food. Although this may be a tall order in America today, where so few people prepare all their meals or consume 100% natural foods, this is the optimal approach. What this means is that the optimal gluten-free diet is also the optimal healthy diet, one containing as many naturally gluten-free, unprocessed (and preferably organically grown) fruits, vegetables, and nuts or seeds. While meat possesses its own problems in terms of health (contribution to cardiovascular disease, weight gain, and the possibility of infectious disease, among others), unless it has been injected, basted, marinated, or processed with gluten-containing products, meat is naturally gluten-free also. So a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds, and if you choose, healthy meat (such as wild salmon and organically, free-range raised poultry) is the optimal way to go gluten-free, and the way to experience optimal dietary health.
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