What is Gluten? - AfterDrink

What is Gluten?

Let’s get comfortable with gluten! We knead to stop being afraid of this mysterious substance. So put your feet up, get your loafers on and get bready because this will be an article you will never baguette!

What is gluten?

Gluten is a mixture of proteins found predominantly in the following foods: wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt.

Bread Sticks and Scones may break my bones, but it’s the pasta that really hurts me.
– What is coeliac disease?

Coeliac disease is an auto- immune condition. It is NOT an allergy or sensitivity to gluten. In fact, if you want to get really detailed, it’s an auto-immune condition that is triggered by Gliadin. Gliadin is the the protein in gluten responsible for giving bread its ability to rise during baking.

Step by Step process behind Coeliac disease:

1) People who have coeliac disease produce an immune response to gliadin (in gluten).
2) When gluten passes through the small intestine, it activates the white blood cells to attack.
3) The white blood cells try to attack the gluten and the inflammation inadvertently damages the gut lining.
4) Normally when the gut lining is looked at under a microscope, you’d see millions of tiny hair like projections which help absorb nutrients from food. In coeliac disease this normally surface (Known as the “brush border”) is flattened when looked at under a microscope.

5) This flattening process significantly reduces the absorption of nutrients, vitamins and minerals from food. The small intestine is the major location of nutrient and vitamin uptake which explains the consequences of having coeliac disease.

Long-term consequences of Coeliac Disease:

1) Weight loss – All the food you are eating is not being absorbed effectively, including carbohydrates, protein and fat.
2) Anaemia – Typically patients can have anaemia, as a result of poor iron absorption.
3) Bleeding- This is as a result of poor vitamin K absorption.
4) Weaker bones (osteoporosis/osteopenia) As a result of poor vitamin D and calcium absorption
5) Neurological symptoms – This is a result of inadequate absorption of B Vitamins.
6) Tiredness & Fatigue – As a combined result of all the above.

Essentially it causes “global malabsorption” – Nutrients are not absorbed well from the gut.

What are the symptoms to look out for?

Typical symptoms:

• Tiredness and fatigue
• Diarrhoea
• Bloating
• Abdominal pain
• Pale, smelly, and sticky poop

As you can see, the above symptoms are highly non-specific. You could have a combination of these in a myriad of bowel conditions completely unrelated to coeliac disease! It can’t be definitively diagnosed from the history and requires further investigations including blood tests and a biopsy of the small bowel.

But don’t break down and rye about it! As soon as gluten is cut out of your diet, the gut recovers and absorption is restored! You’ll be back to rolling on the flour loaf-ing in no time. Alright, no more puns I swear… just kidding I’m on a roll!

How many people in the UK suffer from gluten-intolerance related illness?

In the UK, this figure is approximately 1 in 1000 – this varies throughout the rest of the world.

Gluten intolerance is genetic, so if you have a parent who has the disease then you have a 10% higher chance of having it too. Additionally, if you have a sibling who has it, then you are 30% more likely to have it.

It can affect you at any age, presenting in both males and females equally. Incidence typically peaks during infancy and between 50-60.

What is the difference between gluten intolerance and Coeliac disease?

Gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance are formally known as Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity. This is essentially when people DO NOT have coeliac disease, but they feel better when they avoid gluten. This is a huge grey area in medicine and is currently under intense debate. The coeliac specialists have their theories, however, none of them have been proofen yet (get it…I thought you would).

Essentially gluten sensitivity/ gluten intolerance/ non-coeliac gluten sensitivity is a “diagnosis of exclusion”. This is when alternative diagnoses like coeliac disease, wheat allergy, or lactose intolerance are all excluded, so the tagline of ‘Gluten sensitive’ is given.

Ultimately, if you feel better without having gluten, then chose not to have it!

You’re a pita alright! The rise and rise of gluten-free products.
-What are the best gluten free products?

It can be quite overwhelming trying to change your diet, but fear not! We have picked some of our favourite gluten free brands to help you follow the yellow, gluten-free brick road home. It is also good to know that if a product/ dish has the symbol (GF) on it then it is definitely gluten free- so you know what to look out for in the supermarkets or in a restaurant.

Gluten Free Brands we love:

• 9 bars
• Beond
• Bounce
• Eat Real
• Kallo
• Nairns
• Nakd
• Proper corn
• Nature’s Path

What do you call gluten-free spaghetti? An Impasta!

What’ s important to know is that a gluten-free diet does not equal a carb-free diet or a flavour-free diet. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, butter nut squash, lentils & pulses, and quinoa can all be used in place of traditionally gluten ingredients. Here are some great gluten free recipes and restaurant recommendations:

Recipes to try:

1. American Style Gluten Free Pancakes- Madeleine Shaw
2. Cinnamon Banana Bread- Hemsley and Hemsley
3. Buckwheat Courgette Pizza Crepe- Lisa Roukin
4. Blackened Salmon with Asian Salad- Madeleine Shaw
5. Celeriac Spaghetti and Kale Carbonara – Hemsley and Hemsley
6. Slow Cooked Beef and Carrot Stew- Madeleine Shaw
7. Chocolate Pots – Jamie Oliver
8. Flourless Chocolate Lime Cake with Margarita Ice Cream- Nigella Lawson

Places to go:

1. Beyond Bread
2. Niche
3. The Artisan Gluten Free Bakery
4. Leggero
5. Dominos also do their own gluten-free pizza!
6. Honest Burger now do their own gluten-free burger!

In many restaurants, it has now normal to provide an alternative ‘allergy menu’ for any dietary requirements (including gluten related), so it is always worth asking for this whenever you go out to eat!

I’m having naan of it!
-True or false? Dealing with myths about gluten:

1. Is gluten bad for everyone?


Gluten has gained a very bad reputation in recent years, it has become the Voldermort of the grain world. You dare not speak its name in case someone nearby spontaneously combusts! But these rumours are false. Gluten has been scapegoated as the source of all human health problems, but it is not a toxic substance that needs to be avoided by everyone. The gluten-free diet is healthier for people with gluten-related disorders, but there is nothing to suggest that it is beneficial for those who don’t suffer from these illnesses.

2. Will the gluten-free diet help me to lose weight?


Sometimes gluten-free diets are put into the same bracket as healthier alternative diets which can inadvertently suggest that it be used as a weight loss method. However, this is very misleading! Foods that contain gluten are sometimes actually a better source of fibre, vitamins and minerals than their gluten- free version. Processed gluten- free products can contain more fat, sugar or chemicals to compensate for the lack of gluten. Consequently, a gluten-free diet may actually be higher in calories and can cause weight gain, rather than weight loss. Replacing regular cookies, cakes and pizza with their gluten-free equivalents will not help you lose weight.
So ciabatta think twice before cutting gluten out your diet to lose weight!

3. Can I outgrow my celiac disease?


Unfortunately, celiac disease is a permanent illness that you cannot outgrow. However, in these modern times, it is the easiest it has ever been to lead a gluten-free lifestyle. So keep going and don’t let gluten hold you back, you could be the next Bread Pitt or Scarlett Dough-hansson! Crust me, I’m a doctor.

4. Are there any surprising items that might contain gluten?


There are a few items that contain gluten that may not be as obvious and so are harder to avoid if you suffer from any form of gluten intolerance. For example blue cheese, soy sauce, gravy, pickles, hot dogs, and french fries, unfortunately, all contain traces of gluten. Just remember to check labels carefully for the (GF) symbol before purchase- wheat hate for you to get caught off guard.

We hope that this blog helped you deal with the topic of gluten, it’s the yeast we could do!

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