Gluten is the protein that is built up in the seeds of grass plants.

This is meant to aid propagate the next generation of the plants. We commonly refer to these grass seeds as grains. Almost all grains have gluten in them.

There is gluten in corn that is used as a weed suppressor and fertilizer while Thai food contains glutinous rice. This form of gluten does not affect even those with gluten intolerance or celiac disease.

The gluten that does affect some people is from the sub-group of the grain family – Poaceae. To this sub-family of grasses belong wheat, rye, barley and oats.

This type of gluten contains two proteins – glutenin and gliadin. When the grains of wheat, rye, barley or oats are used for baking, these two proteins combine and form a glue-like substance that is thick and stretchy. This gives the texture and elasticity to the dough. Gluten also helps dough to rise and becoming a light, airy loaf.

This property of wheat is what makes it popular as the grain of choice to make baked goods. Other lesser popular grains that are used for baking and contain gluten are barley and rye.

Modern wheat is grown with more gluten in it to make it that much more versatile for baking. This very same property is the reason why those with gluten intolerance find it difficult to consume any wheat product.

This is also why the misconception – that wheatgrass cannot be consumed by those who suffer from gluten intolerance – is believed by a lot of people.

When nutritionists refer to a gluten-free diet, they mean the gluten found in wheat, rye, barley and oats (to a lesser degree). Gluten is also widely prevalent in processed foods.

Anyone who needs to avoid gluten must ensure they read food labels carefully and understand what ‘gluten’ mentioned on the food label refers to.

Health problems due to gluten

Those who suffer from gluten intolerance – sprue, celiac disease or gluten-sensitive enteropathy cannot tolerate any form of gluten present in wheat, rye or barley and suffer from the following symptoms.

  • Gastrointestinal problems such as stomach cramps, gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and foul-smelling stools
  • Patients with gluten intolerance can suffer from dermatitis herpetiformis when itchy, watery blisters occur on the skin.
  • Villi are small finger-like projections found in the small intestine. These get damaged in people with celiac disease. When villi are damaged, nutrient absorption gets affected. Hence, celiac patients can suffer from malnourishment and fatigue.
  • When celiac disease has not be identified and treated for long, it can cause osteoporosis, arthritis, joint pain and other musculoskeletal problems to occur.

The only cure for those with gluten sensitivity is to follow a gluten-free diet.

A gluten-free diet

Patients with celiac disease and other types of gluten intolerance must follow a gluten-free diet to be free of symptoms.

With time and patience, you will find there are many good substitutes that you will learn to like.

  • Foods to avoid are barley, rye, wheat and triticale (combination of rye and wheat). Vinegar, malt flavoring all contains wheat. Wheat products in supermarkets have different names. Avoid bulgur, durum flour, farina, graham flour, kamut, semolina and spelt – all these contain wheat.
  • Foods that are safe are fruits and vegetables, dairy products, eggs, all beans, meats, fish, poultry. Meat products that are batter-fried, breaded or marinated must be avoided.
  • Gluten-free grains such as corn and cornmeal, flax, gluten-free corn, potato, beans, millet, and such are all safe to consume.

Make sure you buy products that are labeled as ‘gluten-free’. Unfortunately, those with gluten intolerance will have to remain on such a gluten-free diet all their lives.

These people can also begin to suffer from lack of vitamins and nutrients, since many food grains that they need to avoid are enriched with them.

Such people can check with their doctor and take the necessary vitamin supplement to compensate for the deficiency or eat other foods that contain them.

How can Wheatgrass be consumed to avoid gluten?

Wheatgrass is full of vitamins, nutrients, proteins, and amino acids and such. Hence, it is a good food to include even for gluten sensitive people.

Wheatgrass that is consumed as juice, tablets or supplements is got from raw wheatgrass plants.

This, unlike, wheat grains is actually said to be free of gluten. Wheatgrass is harvested before the jointing stage. It is at the jointing stage, that the wheat plant develops grain kernels, which contain gluten.

Hence, those with gluten intolerance can safely consume young wheatgrass.

However, when buying readymade juices, powders or supplements, make sure you look at the product label to make sure it is gluten-free.

When ordering a fresh glass of wheatgrass smoothie or juice, you can ask about processing methods. Cross-contamination can occur when wheatgrass can actually contain gluten.

Wheatgrass offers many health benefits and if it is processed correctly, it can be free of gluten and safe for those with gluten sensitivity.

Many commercial growers of wheatgrass make sure they test the product for gluten to ensure that it is safe for those on a gluten-free diet.

It is the harvesting and processing segments that are critical for this is when cross-contamination can occur. If the wheatgrass is made from mature plant, then it will contain gluten.

So, anyone with gluten-sensitivity must check with the manufacturer to make sure their wheatgrass products are gluten free. On the other hand, growing and consuming wheatgrass juice at home means that you will be in control of when the plant is harvested.

You can ensure that it is cut at the right time before it matures and contains gluten. In this way, if you are gluten sensitive, you can enjoy the host of health benefits that wheatgrass offers without worry about its side effects if you suffer from gluten intolerance.

Anyone with severe gluten intolerance must check with their doctor to make sure they can consume wheatgrass.

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