Important Info About Gluten and Your Health!

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  • May 22, 2013 8:11 pm

Important Info about Gluten and Your Health!

What is Gluten?


Gluten is the common name for proteins in specific grains that are harmful to persons with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. These proteins are found in all forms of wheat and related grains rye, barley and triticale. Gluten gives elasticity to dough and provides chewiness to breads and baked goods. Gluten’s two main protein groups are gliadins and glutenins.

How Do I Know If I Have Gluten Intolerance or Celiac Disease?

You may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Nutritional deficiencies due to malabsorption e.g. low iron levels
  • Gastro-intestinal problems (bloating, pain, gas, constipation, diarrhea)
  • Fat in the stools (due to poor digestion)
  • Aching joints
  • Depression
  • Eczema
  • Head aches
  • Exhaustion
  • Irritability and behavioural changes
  • Infertility, irregular menstrual cycle and miscarriage
  • Cramps, tingling and numbness
  • Slow infant and child growth
  • Decline in dental health

Undiagnosed for long periods of time, food intolerances have been found to contribute to diabetes, bowel cancer, anemia and osteoporosis.

Why Gluten Matters

During digestion, gluten proteins break down into smaller units, referred to as peptides, polypeptides or peptide chains, which are made up of strings of amino acids. One particular amino acid sequence or peptide chain is known to be harmful to people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity when it comes in contact with the small intestine. For people with gluten-related disorders, strictly avoiding gluten is critical to maintaining good health.

Certified Gluten-Free

Established in 2005, the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) provides affordable certification services to producers of gluten-free products. The Food and Drug Administration currently does not define or regulate gluten-free. So what’s the best way to know if a product is GF? Look for this GFCO Certified Gluten-Free seal, which indicates that the manufacturing facility was inspected and the product contains less than 10 ppm, a level considered by experts to be gluten-free and safe for those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.

How Do I Know if a Product is Gluten-Free?


A product is considered gluten-free if it is labeled “gluten-free” from the GFCO or the Celiac Sprue Association. Here are some of the labels that you may see on packages:


In lieu of a label, the ingredient list must be reviewed carefully for ingredients containing gluten.

Ingredients to Know


These ingredients are not gluten-free: wheat, rye, barley oats (unless the oats are certified GF), malt, brewer’s yeast.

Oats are often cross contaminated and contain a protein (avenin) structurally similar to gluten’s protein (gliadin), so some sensitive people can’t eat them. However, many GF people can tolerate oats. Be sure to buy “certified gluten-free” oats.

The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) requires that the top eight allergens, wheat being one, be clearly identified. With wheat derivatives, such as modified food starch, it must be indicated that “wheat” is the source, either with “wheat” in parentheses next to it or “wheat” in the “Contains” statement at the bottom of the ingredient list.

If a Product States “Made in a facility that processes wheat” Is it Gluten-Free?


Not necessarily. Consumers should not use this type of voluntary advisory labeling statement to determine gluten-free status. When in doubt, avoid the product.

What Alternatives Are Available for Gluten Replacements?


To replace gluten-containing products use a spectrum of ingredients, including potato, corn, rice, quinoa, millet, soy and coconut, along with sunflower and sesame seeds and various nuts.

Do I Need to Worry about Gluten in Personal Care?


The true content of gluten in cosmetics is not clear, however the amount of gluten grains used in most personal care products is insignificant and a person would have to ingest a lot to cause a reaction. These products should not present a problem with a gluten-reaction unless you also have an allergic reaction to gluten. If you are allergic to wheat or oats, you may want to avoid all items with these ingredients.

The Most Common Gluten-Containing Personal Care Ingredients


Wheat is the most common gluten ingredient used in personal care items, even natural and organic brands. Wheat protein is used as a moisturizing and thickening agent in everything from mascara to conditioner. Rye extract is used as a firming ingredient in facial creams, barley is used for its anti-inflammatory properties. Like in foods, these ingredients can be listed under a variety of names that may not be easily identifiable as gluten related. Below are ingredients to avoid:

  • Avena sativa (oats which may be contaminated with gluten)
  • Cyclodextrin
  • Dextrin
  • Fermented grain extract
  • Hordeum distichon and hordeum vulgare
  • Hydrolysate
  • Hydrolyzed malt extract
  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
  • Maltodextrin
  • Phytosphingosine extract
  • Amino peptide complex
  • Secale cereale
  • Triticum aestivum and triticum vulgare
  • Tocopherol/Vitamin E (may come from wheat)
  • Yeast extract

Gluten-Free Supplements


Gluten can be found in supplements, especially in vitamin and mineral supplements and herbal supplements in the form of added grains, grain grasses or ingredients derived from these grains. Grasses such as wheatgrass and barley grass are technically gluten-free because they are not part of the seed. These grasses may be ingested if only the grass is used, not the seed. Supplements containing gluten are most commonly found in the inactive ingredients such as the fillers and binders.

For more information about gluten-free, visit:
Gluten Free Network
Gluten Intolerance Group
Celiac Sprue Association

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