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November 11, 2010 at 1:00 PMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Understanding Gluten Allergies

By Helen More Blogs by This Author

About 75 percent of the population suffer from some type of food intolerance, which can cause a variety of symptoms such as abdominal difficulties, colitis, diarrhea, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Unlike a food intolerance, a food allergy is an autoimmune response to a particular food.

Onset is usually quite sudden with acute symptoms such as asthma, coughing, difficulty breathing, and immediate headaches, as well as vomiting. Many people suffer with a gluten allergy. Gluten itself isn't bad for most people, but those who are allergic are better off to avoid it.

Is Eating Bread Healthy?

Part of eating healthy used to inclue several portions of bread every day. Bread is still considered healthy, as long as a gluten intolerance or allergy isn't present in the consumer. If either is suspected, an elimination diet will help determine if the culprit is gluten. If an allergy or intolerance is discovered, breads made from grains that don't contain gluten are fine to consume.

Gluten

Gluten is a protein found in barley, rye, and wheat.  It is not found in buckwheat, corn, millet, oats, quinoa, soybeans, or sunflower seeds. Unfortunately, because wheat is used in the making of most pasta, pastries, and cereals, as well as in a variety of processed foods, it's difficult for an individual to avoid gluten completely. Unfortunately, abstinence is the only solution. Thankfully, less than one percent of the population has a true allergy to gluten. This type of allergy is usually discovered once a toddler begins eating whole foods. 

Gluten intolerance is seen at a much higher percentage in the population and often manifests in a disease called celiac disease.

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is a digestive malfunction in the immune system that is brought on by the consumption of gluten. The damage takes place in the small intestines. The vilii (small finger-like appendages that line the small intestine and absorb nutrients) are damaged, which prevents the intestines from properly absorbing necessary nutrients. Most people suffering from celiac disease have gastrointestinal problems, but some people have no symptoms at all, making celiac disease difficult to diagnose. Unfortunately, there's currently no cure for celiac disease.

However, celiac disease is entirely preventable and can be controlled by avoiding foods that contain gluten. Celiac disease worsens with age, and, If left untreated, can cause anemia, vitamin deficiency, osteoporosis, organ problems, heart problems, and cancer. 

It is important for consumers to understand that a "Gluten-Free" label on food items doesn't mean that it's healthier in some way. Gluten isn't a preservative; it's not synthetic or dangerous, and it isn't especially fattening. People with gluten allergies and intolerance are really the only ones who need to avoid it.

Sources:

http://www.foodintol.com/wheat.asp#allergy

http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/celiac-disease/features/gluten-intolerance-against-grain

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/gluten-what-you-dont-know_b_379089.html

http://www.celiac.com/

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