Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Gluten- what is it ?

About six years ago , I learned about the positive affects a gluten free and casein free diet has had on many autistic children , but did not attempt to implement it myself for a lot of reasons. About 4 years later, after some real breakthroughs through supplements, I gave it a try , but it had minimal impact on Nick and so I dropped it. At the time I was not suspecting any connection with me, did not really notice any affects on me so moved on. I did, however, keep a lot of the information on gluten in my notes and files for future reference. Main reason I did so is because the whole idea of gluten is something that a lot of people do not understand.

What exactly is gluten ? Is gluten a starch ? No. Gluten is a protein, or a combination of two proteins called gliadin and glutenon. They combine with starches and consist of about 80 percent of the protein in wheat.You notice the affect of gluten in yeast breads when you bake because it is the substance that becomes elastic and allows the gases from the yeast to make the dough rise. Starch is a different substance, and it converts to sugar in the digestive process to provide energy to whatever ate it, plant or animal . Foods containing starch, an being gluten free is something that we just happened to be discussing at the moment in our homeschool, and a lab was in order. The presence of starch in a food can easily be identified with iodine- if the iodine turns blue, the food contains starch. The presence of gluten is not as easy to detect however. We did a simple lab experiment yesterday to uncover this starch presence. While it is no surprise that wheat crackers contain starch, it was very surprising to find the amount contained in plain, nonfat yogurt ! Milk however does contain starch because it is the result of a living organism processing sugars to create something else.

From the bottom , clockwise plain nonfat yogurt, wheat cracker, potato, apple slice,mushroom and banana

A prime example of starches and gluten being separate things would be beans, corn ,potatoes, rice and oats. All of these are free from gluten but contain starch. All are incomplete proteins as well, which is why vegetarians must take extra care to include different forms of non animal protein sources in order to get a complete balance. Oats become a problem for many because they are grown close to wheat, often in a crop rotation with wheat , harvested and produced on equipment that is also used for wheat, so unless you are using oats that are certified to be gluten free( or have a lower sensitivity to gluten) , they should be avoided.

Food wise yesterday it was another gluten free day with hardboiled eggs and an apple for breakfast, bean soup , veggies and hummus for lunch and hall walking for exercise . My flair had gone down enough that I could walk them safely , without falling. Yay for improvement ! Dinner was pictured above- pork chop( actually pork loin cut into a chop), roast green beans with sesame seeds and sliced almonds and a salad with romaine, dandelion, grapes and walnuts. I made an accidental discovery- if you start cooking quinoa according to the package directions , turn the heat too high, walk away and return to find the pan almost dry and add additional water to prevent it from burning, quinoa swells HUGE ! Could be a handy trick for really hungry days !

Standard quinoa grains are gluten free, but quinoa flour and flakes may not be. They are often produced on a line that produces wheat products and cross contamination can result. If your sensitivity level is high, it is best to limit your intake to standard quinoa grains alone.Quinoa is an amazing grain that is a complete protein, unlike wheat, rice or beans which are incomplete.


spunkysuzi said...

You teach me something new everyday! Thanks :)

Diane Fit to the Finish said...

I've heard a lot about gluten but never did any research on my own to find out any details of what it is and how to avoid it. It sounds like it is a challenging way to eat.

I had heard that even though something is gluten free it may be processed on equipment that is not.

Sweet Pea 48 said...

I am gluten intolerant and just found out about a year ago. Appreciate your gluten information.