Since I last wrote about celiac sprue and gluten-free diets, there has been an increase in the number of people
following the gluten-free diet in our community and nationally.
So if you are finding the need to do so, think of it as an opportunity to follow a healthy diet. Many foods are
gluten-free naturally: fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, beef, pork, poultry, dairy, corn, rice and even pure
chocolate. With all the new products and increased knowledge, there has never been a better time to be diagnosed with
celiac sprue. As of 2007, there were 636 gluten-free products on the market.
The surge in the number of people following versions of gluten-free diets continues. Lactose intolerance (sugar
naturally occurring in milk) is common in 30 to 60 percent of those diagnosed with celiac disease. Because of
structural damage occurring in the small intestine, numerous nutrients are not adequately absorbed. One needs to
increase consumption of iron-rich foods, calcium, vitamin D and enriched gluten-free products that are high in protein,vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Celiac disease is associated with other autoimmune conditions. There are more than 200 signs and symptoms or no
symptoms at all. For adults, the most common symptom is iron-deficiency anemia that will not respond to iron therapy.
The other common symptoms are varied and more nondescript. The only proven treatment is strict lifelong adherence to a
gluten-free diet. This means elimination of all forms of wheat, rye and barley. Even small amounts of gluten (threshold
of 20 parts per million, or less than 50 milligrams per day) can be harmful and cause intestinal damage. One slice of
white bread contains 124,000 ppm gluten. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, consumption of wheat products
was 324.6 pounds per capita in 2005.
Wheat-free is not necessarily gluten-free. What and where is gluten? Gluten is 80 percent protein and found in grains
to provide the structure for dough - not only holding ingredients together but retaining the leavening gas and moisture
as it is formed. Gluten-free flours are mainly starch and cannot produce a moist, light, airy product unless
significant changes are incorporated.
Some of the common places that gluten is found would be barley (including fermented alcoholic beverages such as beer),bulgur, cereal binding, couscous, spelt, durum, farina, graham flour, kamut, malt (extract and vinegar), matzoh meal,oats, orzo, rye, semolina, triticale, wheat, bran, germ and starch. Spelt is a subspecies of wheat and therefore
contains an offending ingredient. Gluten can be found in many hidden sources, and cross contamination can be reactive
(even to the point of using the same toaster that toasted the family's regular toast). For many, uncontaminated oats
seems to be safe in moderation (½ cup dry rolled oats or ¼ cup steel cut oats daily).
What are some of the pitfalls, solutions and tricks of a gluten-free diet and where can you find additional
information? In part two of this article, I will answer the so now what?" question and how to make the diet more
firstname.lastname@example.org or 247-4355.
Wendy Rice is family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.