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What is gluten and which foods contain it?
Gluten - what is it?
Although it has been present in our food for more than 9000 years, and despite the fact that it has helped contribute to the evolution of the human race, today wheat allergies affect almost 1% of the world’s population.
There has been an increase in the consumption of wheat flour and, as a result, gluten, since the 1970s. This is partly due to an increase in the production of industrial foods.
But what is gluten and are you sensitive? And in what products do we find it in and how do we replace it?
What is gluten?
Gluten is a substance formed when two proteins naturally present in certain cereals, gliadin and glutenin, come in contact with water.
What is the purpose of gluten ?
Gluten plays an important role in the preparation of baked goods.
Gliadin plays on extensibility and glutenin on elasticity. Two essential factors in obtaining an airy and light bread.
Where do we find gluten in our diet?
Gluten is found mainly in 5 different cereals: rye, oats, wheat, barley and triticale.
Are you sensitive or intolerant to gluten?
Being introduced to gluten at a young age (younger than 6 months old) or a genetic predisposition can cause sensitivity or even hypersensitivity to gluten. In some cases this can even contribute to the onset of celiac disease.
It is important to note that being gluten sensitive does not mean that you have celiac disease. These two pathologies are totally different.
In susceptible individuals, sensitivity is characterized by symptoms such as bloating, nausea, diarrhoea, constipation, headaches and fatigue following the consumption of gluten.
Unlike celiac disease, this physiological response does not involve the immune system.
It is difficult to know the number of people sensitive to gluten in Europe as many cases are self-diagnosed. Therefore some people choose to stop consuming gluten prior to receiving professional medical advice.
Gluten intolerance: celiac disease
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease (the immune system attacks the body rather than defending it) that is characterized by chronic inflammation of the gut following the ingestion of gluten.
It is the consumption of gluten by genetically predisposed people that triggers celiac disease. Today, 1% of the world’s population suffers from this disease.
Celiac disease is more easily recognisable than gluten sensitivity. The symptoms are abdominal pain, digestive disorders, vomiting, bloating, weight loss, chronic diarrhoea, loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue and even joint pain.
Celiac disease is diagnosed by biopsy to detect the abnormal presence of antibodies.
There is only one treatment to fight this disease: the adoption of a strict gluten-free diet.
But unlike a simple gluten sensitivity, celiac disease can cause intestinal lesions, hence the importance of excluding all gluten products from the diet of those affected.
Mais contrairement à une simple sensibilité au gluten, la maladie coeliaque peut provoquer des lésions intestinales, d’où l’importance d’exclure tout gluten de l’alimentation pour les personnes diagnostiquées.
How to avoid gluten in everyday life?
While the adoption of such a strict regime may seem complicated, today there are more and more alternatives designed specifically to meet the needs of people who suffer from this condition.
For example, there are many substitutes for gluten-free cereal products (bread, pasta, muesli) such as rice, corn or buckwheat.
Gluten-free alternatives are now more readily available for staples such as wheat flour, which can be replaced by corn flour.
What is the point of a gluten free diet?
Gluten is a ubiquitous source of vegetable protein in modern diets.
Despite this, many people decide to remove it from their diet without being hypersensitive or intolerant. Indeed, some people find that removing gluten from their diets improves digestion and reduces bloating after meals.
If you suspect that you are sensitive to gluten or just want to eliminate gluten from your diet, we recommend that you consult your doctor.