In the not so distant past the word gluten was strange and unfamiliar. Now with the rise of the Paleo diet and the myriad of gluten sensitivities, the word has become a common term found on products throughout any place where food is sold.
So what’s all the hype…what is gluten anyway? Gluten is the naturally occurring sticky protein found in wheat and other wheat-related grains, including spelt, barley, rye, kamut, bulgur, couscous, and farina (among other less common grains). This protein is what gives dough it’s elasticity, allows bread to rise, and provides the texture we are familiar with in a loaf of bread or pizza crust. Gluten is also used as a protein additive added to foods that are typically low in protein. Gluten has gained a great bit of popularity since 2007, when the Food and Drug Administration proposed to allow manufacturers to label a food as “gluten-free” as long as it met certain criteria established by the FDA.
It is well accepted that people with celiac disease (a medical condition which causes an immune reaction damaging the small intestines and limiting the ability to absorb nutrients after the consumption of gluten) need to eliminate gluten from their diet whether they have symptoms or not. However, there is a great deal of research suggesting gluten, specifically two components of gluten-gliadin & glutenin, is related to a variety of ailments from weight gain, various skin irritations, insulin resistance, and arthritis, and autoimmune deficiencies. These theories are not widely accepted in the medical community, however the research is so compelling that trialing a move away from wheat products may be a move worth making.