A protein, gluten is found in grains like wheat, rye, spelt and barley. But what does it do? Consider a packet of wheat flour; when you add water to it, it gets a glue-like consistency. This elasticity is because of gluten. Gluten is also the reason why breads like chapati, puri are rolled easily. Gluten consists of 2 proteins: glutenin and gliadin. Gliadin is related to the negative side effects.
Majority of people are able to consume gluten in its entirety. However, certain individuals cannot tolerate gliadin. The reason is an auto-immune condition called celiac disease, or gluten sensitive enteropathy.
In this condition, antibodies are formed against gluten, that can damage the intestinal walls. This can cause mal-absorption of other nutrients and severe digestive issues. The most common symptoms of celiac disease include indigestion, flatulence or gas, diarrhoea, constipation, skin rashes, anaemia, weight loss and foul-smelling stools.
In other conditions like in irritable bowel syndrome, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis) are also susceptible to gluten sensitivity. For these conditions, gluten is avoided initially and then re-introduced on the basis of tolerance to certain amounts.
Now it may sound simple, but avoiding gluten is a tall task. This is because gluten is present in almost every ready to eat food like bread, biscuits. It is present in foods like soup and fried foods. Hence it becomes crucial to scan the list of ingredients mentioned on these foods before eating them.
Gluten can be substituted by using pseudo cereals like amaranth (rajgeera) instead of the normal wheat flour. You can also opt for chestnut flour ( singada atta), guar gum, tapioca flour (arrowroot), banana flour, coconut flour, chickpea flour ( besan), soy flour as well. Sticking to most healthy foods like fruits, nuts, and vegetables can help you avoid gluten issues.
So the next time you’re out buying bread, don’t forget to scan the labels and list of ingredients for gluten!