What is gluten exactly? In this article, we’re going to clear up some of the misconceptions and fears about this mysterious term that has gained so much popularity recently.
Gluten is a complex protein that creates the structure of most of the breads/pastas we eat. If you’ve ever made bread, you’ve seen gluten in action. The pictures below show a simplified version of what happens when you knead dough – you are forcing the two main components of gluten together to form a gluten matrix that forms the structure of bread and other food systems. See the stringy fibers in the dough in the second picture? That is a developed gluten matrix!
The next question most often asked about gluten is: Is it dangerous? That depends on whether you have certain medical conditions. To the normal person, there is absolutely no danger to eating gluten and little benefit to going gluten-free. Most people who chose to go gluten-free do so for weight loss purposes because eliminating gluten eliminates a lot of complex carbs (pasta, bread, etc.) from your diet, which can help you lose weight. However, some people have gluten intolerance or a more severe condition called Celiac’s Disease. People with Celiac’s or gluten intolerance can have a reaction to any or all components of gluten (gliadin, glutenin, and gluten) which can cause intestinal swelling, diarrhea, vomiting, or constipation.
There are some foods you may know contain gluten and some foods you might not think about even checking. The three main contributors of gluten to foods are wheat, rye, and barley. Foods that definitely contain gluten (unless stated otherwise): bread, pasta, beer, noodles, pastries, crackers, baked goods, cereal and granola, pancakes, croutons, tortillas, and any malt alcohol. Some foods you might not realize have gluten: Doritos (my one friend always forgot this and would be totally swollen the next day), breadcrumbs (made of bread, but you may not think of this as you eat something coated in them), sauces/gravies/soup (some soup, sauces and gravies use flour as a thickener – always ask!), processed lunch meats and meat substitutes can sometimes use plant ingredients for texture, some cheesecakes can use flour – again always ask before eating – and anything with seasoning on it can have trace amounts (there is a starch that is used to help hold the seasoning to the chip/meat/etc.).
Some key words to look for on labels to avoid gluten: rye, barley, wheat, malt vinegar, flour, soy sauce, and maltodextrin. Now, a product can still have traces of gluten in it and be called gluten free, so if you are really sensitive to gluten it is best to avoid ANYTHING that has been listed above on the ingredients statement in any quantity. Trace amounts are allowed because it can be difficult to completely remove all the gluten from a product and in most individuals, these trace amounts will not cause any reactions.
I hope this post clears up some fears you might have! If you have any questions about something covered/not covered here please submit them here or to my personal tumblr and I can answer them there!
Amanda is a food scientist currently working in product development. She’s excited to teach No More Ramen’s readers about the building blocks of food. Click here to read all of Amanda’s posts for No More Ramen!
Come on brain, I really don’t want to do this right now
My last week has been panic attacks, mood swings, tonnes of crying, stress, lethargy, and I don’t even know what else.
I’m pretty sure my fiance and my flatmates and son are scared of me now.
I threw an electric mixer (which, thankfully, I didn’t destroy) across the room the other day before I clicked what was even going on and I’ve broken a door (which I’ve since fixed).
I had to walk out of a job interview a couple of days ago because I started hyperventilating and crying because the idea of having to put my son into longer daycare hours so I can work, therefor sacrificing time I could otherwise be spending with him, is one I hate, but not one I’ve ever previously freaked out about, like, if I’m desperate to spend time with my kid I’ll make time on the weekend right? Needless to say, that job is out the window.
I know I should go into the doctor or something to sort this shit out, because overall my functionality is all but gone, I’m having more trouble climbing back into my body in the morning so I can then force myself out of bed than I ever used to, and every time I sit down I fall asleep or start sobbing, but I also know that if I go into my doctor about this he’ll send me to specialists and it’ll be a matter of getting pinged around a bunch of different people who I can’t afford to be seeing just so they can find an answer to “Ooh, what’s wrong with her this time?”
My father and fiance have both decided I’m basically incapable of either holding down a job or working full stop, but if I don’t get a job then we can’t afford our rent, I can’t afford kindy for my kid, I can’t afford to look after my kid full stop, and that’s a big problem.
But if I don’t go into the doctor to sort this out so I can then show potential employers that I’m medicated rather than them calling my old boss as a reference and having her tell them I’m basically nuts (which has already happened three times, unbeknownst to fiance of mine) due to a certain incident in the workplace which then lead to her being informed at the hospital by the guy who used to look after me that I’m not permitted to work on my own in an establishment, let alone near flammable liquids, oops.
And then, if I write down that I’m on medication to prevent breakdowns and blah blah blah on a CV or an application form they’ll just decide they don’t want to hire the crazy person.
But specialists. They make me feel incredibly anxious and uncomfortable and add more money stress that I can’t afford and they always make me feel like there’s more wrong with me than there already is.
All that aside, I feel like the only thing I’m really good at is being a decent mum and I’m not even that at the moment because I can’t even get a handle on what the hell my brain is doing.
Batman by Patrick Gleason