What is Gluten?

Wednesday 8 February 2017 by

Bread, Bagel, Gluten, Pasta, Wheat

It’s turned out to be pretty fashionable to be gluten free. Don’t get me wrong – it’s certainly helped me out, considering it’s significantly widened my options when eating out or food shopping – but do we really know what gluten is and what it does?

I always explain about the physical reaction by talking about a big bowl of pasta; if you eat a lot, you get a bloated stomach. That’s a reaction to the gluten. But I’ll explain it a bit more. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. It works as a glue to hold foods together – when kneaded bread, it is the strands of gluten that you are stretching to make it rise.

Unfortunately, it’s not even as simple as that, as gluten can be found in all sorts of things that you wouldn’t expect – think soups, sauces and food colouring. It means that if you really do have an intolerance, it can be a bit of a nightmare world to navigate.

Intolerances come with all sorts of symptoms – from the simple bloating (which can be painful and feel like you’ve swallowed a football) to the more bothersome side effects such as diarrhoea or constipation. You can also get non gut-direct reactions, like keratosis pilaris (little bumps on the back of your arms), and fatigue or brain fog. Symptoms can also appear as other things – PMS, inflammation of the joints, dizziness, migraines, anxiety… the list goes on.

Gluten is not necessarily bad for you. As part of a balanced diet, it is even good for you (never cut out food types unless you are allergic or intolerant). But if you have an intolerance, it’s fairly straightforward to cut from your diet – just get used to checking food labels a lot – and it can be life changing. Just see above symptoms. If you think you might be intolerant, it’s always good to speak to a doctor first. Especially if your symptoms are bad – they can indicate coeliac disease and other more serious illnesses.

Once you’ve been diagnosed, there are plenty of gluten free diets out there to follow, and there are some pretty decent flour mixes in order to make your own cakes and breads. There will be a lot of label-checking, pining for lemon tarts (seriously, no one makes gluten free lemon tarts) and slip-ups, but it’s fairly straightforward to get the hang of once you understand it. You will miss that big bowl of pasta though.

Related Posts

Share This

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *