Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Is All Gluten Bad?

The good news is that awareness of gluten has increased dramatically the past several years. This has resulted in improved health for many people and the food industry has noticed the interest and responded in kind with more and more gluten-free offerings.

“Gluten” is no longer a strange word with even fast food restaurants and candy companies becoming savvy to its ill effects on health.

But we do have a problem in nomenclature because “gluten” is actually a protein found in many grains that are not problematic for what we call the gluten sensitive patient. A more correct term would be “gliadin sensitive” vs “gluten sensitive”.

Don’t groan; I’ll explain. The word we should be using is “gliadin” because that is the component in the protein portion that celiacs and gluten sensitive patients react to in the offending grains wheat, rye and barley. Gliadin is a specific fragment or sequence of amino acids in these offending grains.

“Gluten” is the storage protein found in wheat but other proteins that are similar are also called gluten despite being found in such innocuous grains as rice, oats, corn, millet, etc.

The reason for this blog post is that a patient recently saw corn gluten on a label and got confused. She knew that she was fine with corn but the “gluten” word confused her.

I’m not trying to start a movement to change our vernacular from “gluten” to “gliadin” – personally I’m just glad that the awareness has increased so well. But I did want to clarify the point to allay any confusion.

Here’s a little information about the grain families that might help:

Within the family of Grasses are two subtypes: Monocots and Dicots.

Monocots have 3 subgroups:
1. Wheat, Rye, Barley
2. Rice, Oats
3. Corn, Sorghum, Millet

Dictots also have 3 subgroups:
1. Buckwheat, Rhubarb (fruits)
2. Quinoa, Spinach
3. Amaranth


So to sum up – wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, bulgur, etc are gliadin containing grains for which an individual suffering with celiac or gluten sensitivity cannot ingest safely. (Please go to: http://www.healthnowmedical.com/info/gluten_foods.html to get a complete list of allowed and disallowed foods)

The gluten found in rice, oats, corn, sorghum, millet, quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat is just fine.


I hope this helps!

To your good health,

Dr Vikki Petersen
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect

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