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Demonizing Gluten – Bad Idea!


You have probably noticed lots of articles instructing us to take all the gluten out of our diet–for “good health”. Do you realize that if we followed that advice, we would be eliminating all wheat, rye, barley, couscous, kamut, orzo, spelt, triticale and oat products? Wait, I am not finished. Also eliminated would be any products containing wheat as a base, stabilizer, emulsifier or thickening agent. OMG! That is a lot of our favorite foods if a true gluten allergy (Celiac Sprue) does not exist. Before going to this extreme, please see your physician and have a formal diagnosis made. Let’s understand celiac sprue a bit more.

Celiac Sprue is the actual or potential intestinal malabsorption of virtually all nutrients; possible lesion of the mucosa in the small intestine; and includes prompt clinical improvement following withdrawal of gluten-containing grains in the diet. Actually it is a protein fraction of gluten called gliadin that is the culprit. This guy damages the small intestine lining. Once healed, life is good again! Common symptoms of this disorder can include weight loss, chronic diarrhea, abdominal cramping and bloating, intestinal gas, and muscle wasting. Appetite is often increased to the point of craving for food. Weakness, lack of energy and fatigue are also common.

Celiac sprue is not to be confused with wheat allergy. Wheat allergy is an IgE-mediated response to wheat protein, and only wheat and products containing wheat need be eliminated. Celiac sprue is a permanent adverse reaction to gluten and much more intense regarding the diet, as detailed above.

For those of us without either of these disorders, have a variety of grains, not just whole wheat. There are many varieties of breads, crackers, cereals, pastas, tortillas and rice, besides just wheat. Get creative. Try some new grains you have not had before. Just remember to look for the grain to be a whole grain–not processed. The first ingredient should include the word “whole”, with 10% or more fiber. This applies to wheat, rye, oats and corn for sure. Other whole grains that may not include the word “whole” in the first ingredient but can still be a whole grain include: popcorn, brown and wild rice, buckwheat, triticale, bulgur (cracked wheat), millet, quinoa and sorghum. I just tried German Dark Wheat Bread (Pepperidge Farm). I found a rich, bold taste, no high fructose corn syrup, and 24 grams dietary fiber in two slices. Delicious!

So have fun trying some new whole grains. Remember there are no bad foods, and all foods can fit into a healthy meal plan. Most important, moderation is the key!


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