Ninety percent of all allergic reactions to food are attributed to just eight foods -- wheat, including gluten, is one of them. Gluten can cause moderate to severe symptoms in people who are sensitive to it. Knowing which foods are high in gluten and how to spot it on a food label can help you avoid the allergen.
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Functionality in Foods
Gluten is a protein formed when wheat flour and water mix. Take a closer look at bread dough -- the stringy, elastic texture you see is gluten. The protein has an important function in food, giving structure to many grain-based products such as pasta, waffles, pastries and most bread.
Impact of Ingestion
Gluten causes a reaction in some people, particularly those with gluten intolerance or celiac disease. When these people ingest gluten, an immune reaction causes the small intestine to become inflamed. In the short term, gluten consumption can lead to pain, gas, diarrhea and malabsorption of nutrients. Over the long term, individuals may experience weight loss, affected growth and impaired development.
Gluten, Gluten Everywhere
Common foods containing high amounts of gluten include pastas, breads, baked goods, crackers, cereal, granola, breading mixes, beer and sauces. It is vital for those with a gluten allergy to examine the food label and identify ingredients containing gluten. Wheat, barley and rye top the list of common offenders. Most flours -- durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, faro, graham, triticale and malt -- are important to spot on the label as they are also rich sources of gluten.
Many foods are naturally low in gluten. Those foods include beans, some cereals, corn, fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, milk-based items, potatoes and rice. Furthermore, several gluten-free grains can be used as a substitute in a diet. These include amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, corn, flax, legumes, millet, potatoes, quinoa, rice, sorghum, tapioca and wild rice. Many products are also specifically made and labeled gluten-free.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: What Do I Need to Know About Celiac Disease
- MedlinePlus: Celiac Disease – Nutritional Considerations
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Foods Allergies: What You Need to Know
- MedlinePlus: Celiac Disease - Resources
- National Foundation for Celiac Awareness