Monday, September 16, 2013

So, What IS Gluten?

      I wanted to start at the beginning this time around. Most people who read this blog probably found it via similar resources and have an understanding about the dangers of gluten, but you never know. While I was recovering from my appendectomy I had a dietary nurse come in to my room and ask me why I needed a special diet, because gluten is in everything, right? He was thinking glucose, but I gave him 'the speech' anyway, because he seemed confused.
 
      Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barely, spelt, and rye. It is what gives French bread that delicious chewiness, and what gives doughs their stretch. It is an excellent binder, and is why baking is so versatile. It is also indigestible by a large portion of the United States. For those with gluten intolerance, ingestion means a seriously upset stomach complete with cramps, bloating, and diarrhea, perhaps for days. For someone with Celiac's disease, even skin contact or breathing it in can cause anaphylactic shock, and even death.

I really need to get myself a camera so this blog isn't so blah!
      According to celiac.com, as many as 1 in 133 people have Celiac's disease or some other form of gluten intolerance. That might not sound like a lot, but think about it like this: You are tasked with providing lunch for a conference of 500 people. Chances are, 4 of them cannot ingest gluten without the threat of serious illness, so a mass pizza order or a sandwich station isn't gonna cut it for them. It is just as serious as a shellfish or peanut allergy, and much harder to avoid. Wheat and wheat products can be found in everything from soy sauce to salad dressing, and cross contamination with food prepared in the same kitchen can cause a reaction. 

      Gluten is everywhere, and avoiding is lifestyle. So many people are being diagnosed it is almost a revolution, and the lifestyle is becoming more than a challenge and bordering on an art. We CAN live without gluten!

      If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Celiac's or gluten intolerance, I urge you to educate yourself further. This is a complex and dangerous issue, and this post is just the barest glimpse into it. There are so many resources to turn to beyond your doctor, including books and websites. Here is a handful to get you started: