Gluten

GLUTEN is a combination of stored proteins obtained mainly from wheat, barley, oats and rye. It is also sourced from some hybrids like spelt, emmer, khorasan and einkorn. The source of gluten is limited to the above listed grains. It should be noted that stored proteins obtained from maize and rice are also called glutens but their properties are vastly different from the proper one we discuss here, which is sourced as mentioned above.

The nomenclature gluten originated from the word glue meaning a viscous substance which is used for joining things. The stored proteins are found as prolamins and glutelins and their common name is gluten.

The properties are listed with their specific utilities and usage:

  • Elastic: which is responsible for the preparation of dough and pasta
  • Chewiness: which makes the bread consumable
  • Riser: causes the bread or pizza to raise while baking
  • Shaper: responsible for maintain the shape of the bread or other food preparations using gluten
  • Spreader: facilitates the cheese to spread
  • Smoothening: smoothens the texture of the preparations

How is it prepared?

Gluten is prepared from the flour of the appropriate grains mentioned above by kneading the flour in water. The dough thus prepared with water is washed to remove the starch and the resultant sediment is dried. Instead of water, sometimes saline solution is also used in preparation in order to obtain a purer form of gluten.

All about Gluten

Consumption of food items with or without gluten has both merits and demerits. However, in recent times there is a growing culture that gluten-free diet alone is good for health, which is only a myth and is not supported by research or facts. As any other form or type of food, food preparations with gluten can be detrimental to people with certain medical conditions.

Benefits

Some of the major benefits while preparing food are:

  • It reduces the risk of exposure to toxic heavy metals like lead, calcium, mercury and arsenic.
  • It reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes and coronary heart diseases
  • It reduces the risk of colorectal cancer
  • It also reduces the calories intake in comparison with gluten free diet.

Gluten is also used as a stabilizing agent in beer and soy sauce and many other food products like ice-cream and ketchup, since they are not harmful in general for persons who are not affected by CD or other related problems.

It is generally used in preparation of seitan which is a meat alternative used in preparation of many vegetarian foods. In other words it is used in preparation of faux meat, faux chicken, faux beef etc.

GLUTEN is used in food preparations, particularly in pet foods, to enhance their protein content. However when contra symptoms like dizziness, stomach upset or head ache appear, usage of gluten must be avoided.

In addition to the above benefits, it is also used in cosmetics, hair products and also in medicines in dermatology.

Disadvantages

Some of the diseases which are aggravated by gluten intake are celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, wheat allergy, and gluten ataxia and dermatitis herpetoformis.

To elaborate, celiac disease is a chronic autoimmune disorder which mainly affects the small intestine due to ingestion of wheat and other grains that produces gluten. This particular disorder is known to affect people of all ages who are genetically predisposed. Celiac disease is not merely a gastrointestinal disease but also found to create many other symptoms which are not related to gastro intestinal issues.

Gluten-free diet is prescribed mainly for those affected by celiac disease. Celiac disease has the potential to elevate the risk of osteoporosis and anemia caused by small absorption of calcium and iron. Upon introduction of a gluten free diet both of these problems are bound to significantly reduce.

Besides celiac disease, intolerance otherwise known as gluten-sensitive enteropathy wherein antibodies and intestinal damages occur in higher levels, is also needed to be watched before consuming gluten containing foods.

Wheat allergy is another condition where gluten usage need to be totally avoided.  The symptoms due to wheat allergy are many ranging from mild to severe conditions.  More than adults, children are vulnerable to this type of allergy. Proper diagnosis is to be done upon surfacing of the symptoms so as to give the child only gluten free food.

Consumption of gluten may also lead to skin rash which is an autoimmune response causing bumps and blisters on the skin. Unlike in the case of celiac disease the rash condition of the skin is not associated with any digestive problem.

 

Kripa Sivasubramanian, MBA, earned her Master’s degree in Business. After a long stint in the Technology sector, she took up courses in natural medicine and yoga. Ms. Kripa is certified in Ayurvedic yoga for Dosha. She is also certified by Stanford University School of Medicine in Introduction to Food and Health.