We all remember the day a doctor told us to eat a gluten free diet. In my case, it was just before Christmas. I did a bit of research about what gluten was, but distinctly remember telling a friend, “that it can’t mean not having any gluten or wheat, that didn’t seem possible – he must just mean you have to count it or something”. I was wrong, and after dabbling with gluten free for a few days, gluten did me in on New Year’s Eve.
If you have been told you have celiac disease, or are gluten intolerant or maybe have irritable bowel syndrome, or another digestive issue and you should be eating a gluten free diet, it means NO GLUTEN. It’s a difficult concept in our day and age, with so much choice out there in yummy ready to eat foods (note, I didn’t say healthy ready to eat foods).
Gluten – we all have a definition in our minds as to what gluten is. We’ve researched on the internet and asked other people. We expect that when asking a medical professional, we’ll get the most accurate answer. You may be surprised to hear an accurate answer from a trained baker or chef. Gluten is the part of wheat that makes the grain strong and elastic. We’ve all seen when a bread maker is taking the dough and punching it, then using their hands to knead it, or pull at it. This action aligns the gluten in the dough and makes the dough strong. Too much kneading will develop the gluten too much and cause the bread or dough to be tough. The gluten is the strength, or glue that keeps the dough stuck together as it rises and bakes, then makes the final product hold together nicely, and even be resistant when you try and pull it apart. These are properties of food that a baker and chef know very well. As a consumer, this is your ideal of any bakery product.
If you have celiac disease, and to a lesser extent some of the other conditions mentioned, gluten is poison to your body. Gluten causes a reaction in the body that is described as an autoimmune reaction by doctors. I describe it as your body fighting itself. The gluten is identified by your gut as a poison, then a series of events begin to take place to fend off the poison. The end result to you is pain, maybe diarrhea, maybe constipation, maybe cramping and tenderness in your abdominal area. The only treatment for celiac disease is a strict gluten free diet – NO poison. For some other conditions, a diet low in gluten may be enough to get relief, but you should always start by cutting gluten out completely. Easier said than done.