What is Gluten?

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, gluten is a common name for a sticky protein stored in wheat, rye, spelled (dinkel wheat), barley and triticale which is a cross between wheat and rye. Of all the cereals with gluten, wheat is by far the most consumed by humans. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape by gluing them together and also makes the elastic dough that gives it the ability to stand up during cooking. Gluten also gives baked goods like chapattis, a nice chewy texture and stickiness. The two main gluten proteins are gliadin and glutenin which are found mainly in wheat.

Gluten sensitivity and celiac disease

When gluten tolerance is low, people who eat wheat-based baked goods or other gluten-free grains get sick. The most serious reaction to gluten is celiac disease. According to the Celiac Foundation, the disease occurs when the immune system attacks the small intestine after eating gluten-containing foods. The attack damages the villi, which are the tiny projections of the fingers that align the small intestine and promote nutrient absorption. When the villi are damaged, nutrient absorption is affected. Celiac disease is hereditary and children who have a relative with celiac have a 1 in 10 chance to contract it, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. To avoid contracting celiac disease, it is best to avoid eating gluten-free foods.

Symptoms and tests of celiac disease

Celiac disease has more symptoms than 200 which makes diagnosis difficult because it affects people differently, according to the Celiabe Disease Foundation. These symptoms can occur in the digestive tract or in other parts of the body. The disease can also develop in children or adults for undocumented reasons. In other cases, there are people with celiac disease, but they do not show the symptoms at all, but they are positive during the blood test of the disease. There are also individuals who receive a negative score for celiac disease when their blood is tested, but positive when the intestinal biopsy is performed. Celiac children have symptoms such as abdominal pain and swelling, severe diarrhea, vomiting, stinking stools, constipation, fatigue, weight loss, stunted growth, irritability, dental enamel defects on permanent teeth and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Adults with celiac disease have joint pains, fatigue, anemia, depression, infertility, migraine headaches, convulsions, rashes and missed menstrual periods according to the Celiac Foundation. Long-term conditions for non-treatment of celiac include gallbladder malfunction, pancreatic problems, gastrointestinal tumors, early-onset osteoporosis and mineral deficiencies among other conditions.

Gluten Sensitivity

There are cases in which the intestine is sensitive to gluten even when the victim is not predisposed to celiac disease. This condition is described as sensitivity to non-celiac gluten (NCGS), and its symptoms are headache, joint pain and numbness in the legs, arms or fingers, according to Beyond Celiac. These symptoms can last hours or days after eating gluten-free foods, but no damage occurs on the intestinal walls. The best way to avoid NCGS is to eat gluten-free foods. According to the study by the Dr. Schar Institute, people with NCGS can tolerate small amounts of gluten in food without having symptoms. After one or two years of a gluten-free diet, people with SCN can reintroduce small amounts of gluten into their diet.

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