The Basics of Gluten: What, Who, Why?

Recently, I’ve had a few people message me or tag me in posts about them or someone they know recently being diagnosed with Celiac Disease or Gluten Intolerance. I want Faith, Fashion, Food with C to be a place where those who have to follow a gluten free diet can go to for advice. I’m intending on posting more gluten free posts and hopefully recipes more.

To start with, I wanted to do a post solely about the basics of gluten, what it is, who needs to be gluten free and why. I began to realize that even though being gluten free is more common now (the whole fad diet thing, but I won’t start my soap box) some still don’t know exactly what gluten is and why people follow a gluten free diet. Hopefully by the end of this post, I will have provided some basic knowledge of gluten.

So what is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in products containing wheat, malt, barley, and rye, oats (grown in the same fields as wheat- cross contamination), and many other products. Gluten acts as an emulsifier, meaning it’s the “glue” that helps the product maintain its shape. For example, when baking a cake you add flour and water. The mixing of these two ingredients, combined with the action of kneading, causes the gliadin and glutenin proteins in the flour to expand and produce strands of gluten, giving the cake it’s texture.

Although gluten is most commonly known to be in food products, it can also be in cosmetics and toiletries since it acts as an emulsifier. Examples can be shampoo, conditioner, lotion, foundation, lipstick, you name it.

Who needs to be gluten free and why?

Q: So who needs to follow a gluten free diet?

A: Individuals with Celiac Disease or Gluten Intolerance/ Sensitivity needs to be on a gluten free diet.

Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder. When someone with Celiac Disease ingests gluten, this sends an immune reaction which causes inflammation that damages the villi in the lumen section of the small intestine. An immune reaction is the body’s response to a foreign antigen. Villi are finger-like projections that help the small intestine to absorb the nutrients from food. When the villi become damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed and vitamin and mineral deficiencies can occur such as Vitamin D deficiency, Anemia, Osteoporosis, etc.

Symptoms of Celiac and Gluten Intolerance are mostly gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating, stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea, heartburn, etc. Also headaches, joint pain, brain fog, weight loss, failure to gain weight, weight gain, dermatitis, and many more symptoms. As stated previously, gluten is also found in cosmetics and toiletries. Whether or not someone with Celiac or Gluten Intolerance need to monitor their cosmetics/ toiletries depends on their severity. Some individuals are very sensitive where even the slightest amount of gluten can trigger symptoms, this obviously also applies to cross contamination when preparing one’s food and eating out. Personally, I have to watch cross contamination and my cosmetics/toiletries. For example, I notice when my shampoo is not gluten free, I will get an awful headache. (see gluten free cosmetic product reviews here: product reviews!)

I hope this post has been helpful and has provided you with the basic knowledge of gluten.

Have anymore questions? Or anything to add? I’d love to know!

Ciara

cover image taken from: http://www.eatright.org/resources/health/diseases-and-conditions/celiac-disease

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