What is Gluten?
is a protein compound found in grains like wheat, barley, oats and rye; and
foods made with those gluten-containing grains. The word “gluten” is Latin
for “glue”, which is basically what the gluten protein does. It acts as a
glue to hold together the other compounds and nutrients in the grains. For
example, gluten holds together and gives elasticity to doughs, helping them to
rise and to keep their shape. Gluten gives breads, pasta, pastries, etc. a chewy
texture and makes that bowl of oatmeal all sticky.
is popular with vegans as a source
of vegetable protein and is frequently found in vegetarian meat-substitute
products. Seitan, also known as “wheat-meat”, is typically pure wheat
It becomes surprisingly similar to the look and texture of meat when cooked,
making it a popular meat substitute that rivals tofu in many vegetarian foods.
can’t slap a carrot on our arm when we get hungry. We have breakdown our foods
into useable parts. This involves a number of processes such as chewing, acid in
the stomach, and a host of enzymes; some of which are made by glands in our
mouth and others which are made in the villi of our intestines. Enzymes,
especially the ones made in the small intestines, are much like specialized bank
accounts with which we are born. Ideally, we would eat a variety of foods which
would only require using small amounts of each of the specific enzymes from our
digestive ‘bank accounts’ and then allow those accounts to build up again.
When we eat the same food or foods in every meal, day after day, week after
week, we deplete our enzyme banks. If that bank account gets low enough, our
body can lose the ability to make that particular enzyme altogether. We then
develop conditions like “lactose intolerance”, leaky gut syndrome, iritable
bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), food allergies, etc.
In order to breakdown gluten, we need several enzymes which are made by
the villi in the small intestines. In wheat and other related grains, the
combination of proline and glutamine form a gluten compound called “gliadin”,
which can be especially complicated to breakdown. While this can help make us
feel full longer, it can also place high demands on the enzymes needed for
digesting it. When those villi lose the ability to make the enzymes for gluten,
it is labeled as “gluten intolerance”or “Celiac’s Disease”. Prior to
the last few decades, it was usually called “sprue”.
gluten is an inexpensive and easily made protien, it is frequently used as a
cheap way to increase protien and/or nutrition values in overly processed foods
with low nutritional content. Therefore, wheat gluten has become a popular
ingredient in a large number of foods where one would not expect to find gluten
such as ketchup, hotdogs, ice cream, lunchmeats, fruit juices, salad dressings,
and soup broths. The majority of those convenient foods for babies and toddlers
are loaded with it. The cheap supplements and vitamins from places like Walmart®
are often loaded with it. All this gluten in our foods has created an ever
increasing number of people, especially small children, who suffer from gluten
sensitivity of one kind or another, which has led to some foods now being
labeled as “gluten free”. However, the United States Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) has classified gluten as “GRAS” (generally recognized
as safe), and does not currently require gluten to be listed on the labels of
foods which naturally contain gluten. This makes identifying gluten in various
products difficult for people dealing with a gluten problem. In addition, many
pet foods are loaded with wheat gluten and due to those current labeling laws in
the United States, this grain based protien can simply be labeled as “protien”,
“protein isolate” or “vital amino acids” on the pet food package,
leading to a number of health problems for our cats and dogs as well.
the late 1800’s “sprue” was considered only to be an occasional condition,
affecting roughly 1 of every 2900 people. Today, 1 of every 105 people are being
diagnosed with Celiac’s Disease and 1 out of every 8 or more people are
suspected to have some form of sprue/ gluten intolerance. The number of those
with sprue varies widely, depending upon which studies you look at, but one
thing is certain: the numbers are MUCH higher than they were just a century ago!
The culprit is all those convenient but highly processed foods full of cheap
gluten and gluten-containing grains.
of Celiac’s include chronic diarrhea, weight loss, and exhaustion. A bumpy
rash on the arms and legs is common as well. The symptoms of gluten
overload/sensitivity are many. As
the villi become overwhelmed with the demands of too much gluten, they flatten
and create changes in the bowel that make it less able to absorb other
nutrients, minerals and vitamins, particularly the fat-soluable vitamins A, D,
E, and K. The following are all
possible conditions arising from a gluten overload in the bowels:
blood clotting or bleeding issues
– both food allergies and environmental allergies
disorders – especially those involving the digestive tract, liver,
thyroid or skin
to Thrive” in infants and small children
problems, including fatty liver and/or cirrhosis
neuropathy – nerve pain
problems – Celiac’s typically have weight loss, Gluten overload can cause
obesity or weight loss
recent, though controversial studies, have also linked gluten intolerance to
schizoprenia, manic depression and spectrum disorders like alzheimers and some
forms of autism.
to do about it
if it comes in a bottle, can, or box, there is a 90% chance that it contains
some form of gluten. So, eating a variety of fresh foods (like fruits,
vegetables, raw nuts and seeds) is the best way to reduce our exposure to too
much gluten and replenish our enzyme bank accounts. Not to mention a whole host
of other benefits like reducing the risk of cancers, allergies, arthritis,
inflammation, diabetes, and heart disease. Other gluten free options are millet,
rice, lentils and quinoa or buckwheat (which is not really wheat).
good homeopath or naturopath can also make a homepathic remedy to help repair
the damage done to the villi by consuming too much gluten.
We also often use specific enzyme supplements to replenish the bowel
“banks” with the materials needed to make those enzymes again. While this
does not mean that we will be able to eat gluten at every meal, the combination
of the homeopathic with the enzymes can allow us eat the occasional gluten food
and not pay the price of all those symptoms for hours or even days afterwards.
My family takes the enzyme from time to time to help prevent developing sprue,
especially if we have been eating a lot of gluten containing foods. (Like during
the holidays when there seems to be a large amount of cookies, pies, etc..
everywhere we go!)
can make your own gluten-free salad dressing by mixing equal parts vinegar and
oil and add a few of your favorite spices or herbs like lemon peel, garlic
granules, basil, or thyme, or add a sqeeze of fresh citrus to it like lemon or
lime and a pinch of sea salt. Watch
out for Balsamic Vinegars, many of them have gluten added. Stick to white or
apple cider vinegars.
Baby, an organic company that makes a variety of healthy foods for babies and
toddlers has plenty of tasty gluten-free options including foods that contain
lentils (also sometimes called “dhal”), mung beans, and quinoa (also
sometimes called “the mama grain”).
also have a new gluten free company making tasty products right here in
Michigan. While it is easy to make gluten free goodies at home, unfortunately,
most of the gluten-free products on the supermarket shelves taste awful.
Frustrated that good tasting gluten-free wheat-substitute products were
so far and few between, Lynette and Paul of Plaid Cat Baking in Alanson started
experimenting with gluten free recipes. Their chickens got rather fat eating all
their failed experiments J,
but they now make a number of easy to make delicious gluten-free products
from cookie mixes to bread & pizza crust mixes and pancake mixes.
(Their chocolate chip cookies are out of this world!
We shared them with several people and they never guessed that they were
gluten-free.) You can find Plaid
Cat and their products on the web at
The class is 6:00pm to 8:30pm Monday February 21, 2011 at the Hummingbird Health Offices. Cost is $10.00 per person and limited to 20 people.
the meantime, here is one of our favorite recipes for an easy-to-make, tasty,
cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
cup vegetable stock
small squash, diced
cloves garlic, minced
TBS olive oil
½ tsp dried basil
tsp dried rosemary
tsp dried thyme
tsp sea salt
tsp curry (optional)
tsp garam masala (optional)
twelve oz package frozen vegetables
oven to 400.
down a glass casserole dish with 2 tsp of the olive oil
all the remaining ingredients to the dish and stir them together to mix. Bake
for about 1 hour. The quinoa should be cooked and the liquid should be absorbed.
quinoa is cooked when you can see the little white thread around the seed.
forget to thuroughly rinse the quinoa. It naturally produces a soap-like coating
that needs to be rinsed before cooking. Otherwise, your casserole will have a
can use brown rice instead of the quinoa. However the quinoa is higher in
protien and a better choice if you have any blood sugar issues.
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