Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation
You may be one of the lucky few who have absolutely no reaction to gluten whatsoever. But for many, the presence of gluten in food has become a major disruption in daily life. According to the Center for Celiac Disease at the University of Maryland, one in every 132 people in America has celiac disease, and nearly 15 times that number—up to 15 percent of the world's population, or one in seven people—have a non-celiac gluten intolerance.
More likely, whatever your body's response, you chalk it up to how you "normally" feel. But if what you "normally" feel is bloated, gaseous or lethargic every time you eat gluten, your body may be trying to tell you something. If you also experience diarrhea, skin rash or irritability and depression, you better start listening.
What Is Gluten?
First things first: What is gluten, anyway? Gluten is a composite protein that results when the proteins gliadin and glutenin join together with starch in the seed of grass-related grains such as wheat, rye and barley. Gluten is an elastic protein, meaning it's sticky: You can think of it as the glue (glu-ten) that holds all your favorite bakery confections together—everything from baguettes to beignets get their flaky, doughy, fluffy, chewy texture from the little gluten particles binding their flour base to all the other ingredients.
While proteins in maize (corn) and rice are also sometimes called glutens, they differ from wheat gluten because they lack the gliadin component. Although subtle, this difference allows those with gluten sensitivity to enjoy corn and rice generally unscathed.
How does gluten affect you?