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What is gluten?
What is gluten?
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve probably heard the word “gluten” a lot over the last few years. Maybe you heard it mentioned in a new diet trend, in a report on autism, or maybe you’ve just seen the “Gluten Free” labels that keep popping up in the grocery store. While everyone seems to be talking about gluten, you rarely hear anyone define it.

Gluten is a type of protein found in the following grains: wheat, rye, barley, and spelt. Gluten is the Latin word for glue and it’s where dough gets its elasticity. It also gives the final baked product a chewy texture and helps it keep its shape.

For most people, the grains that contain gluten can be an excellent source of protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. However, an estimated 1% of Americans have an intolerance to gluten, known as celiac disease. Individuals who have celiac disease have an abnormal autoimmune response to gluten, which can damage the lining of the small intestine. Symptoms include digestive problems, skin rash, iron deficiency anemia, muscle cramps, seizures, and mouth ulcers. Your doctor can diagnose celiac disease through a blood test and a biopsy.

There is no cure for celiac disease. However, sufferers can reduce and even eliminate their symptoms by following a gluten-free diet. Luckily, with the growth of the gluten-free food industry, it’s easier (and more delicious) than ever to completely eliminate wheat and other gluten-containing grains from your diet!

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