Nearly 3 million people in the United States have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder causing hypersensitivity to gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains.
Though there has been a marked increase in the number of people diagnosed with the disease there continues also to be misperceptions about gluten. According to a recent survey conducted by NSF International, an independent public health inspection organization that was cited in Time magazine, nine out of 10 Americans have heard of gluten and "gluten sensitivity." However, more than half of survey respondents couldn't adequately describe the substance.
Sometimes, knowing what something isn't points you in the right direction to what it is. Here are five things to know about gluten.
1. It's not about just any and all grains – only certain grains.
Gluten's natural home in grain isn't universal. Many people are surprised to find out, as noted at webmd.com, that there are a goodly number of grains that do not contain gluten, chief among them rice, corn, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, sorghum and oats. Yes oats - as long as they aren't contaminated with wheat; it's best to get oats certified to be gluten-free!
2. It's not just bread and cereal and such.
Small amounts of gluten can be found in some seemingly unlikely foodstuff, as noted in Women's Health Magazine. Wasabi peas, for instance, are often coated in wheat flour and some brands of Wasabi Soy sauce contain wheat. Good ol' All-American peanut butter is made with malt sugars, which have a wee bit of gluten, too, and the same problem can occur with tomato sauces.
3. It's not necessarily about "processed" or "non-processed" foods.
There is a widespread misconception that processed or refined foods all contain gluten, as noted in an article in Timemagazine. But there are many highly processed or refined food products these days that are gluten-free, including the aforementioned rice, corn, etc. and also - usually (you should read labels) - dried beans, nuts, plain potato chips, plain corn tortilla chips, salsa, ketchup, mustard, popcorn, honey and more.
4. It’s not all about food, even your favorite lip balm could have gluten in it.
Most people have figured out by this point that gluten is found in wheat, barley, other grains and various foodstuff. But Dr. Michael F. Picco, writing for the Mayo Clinic, notes that modern manufacturing processes sometimes means gluten may be found in lots of different things that people don't actually eat but may accidentally ingest, including certain lip balms, toothpaste, mouthwash and other products. Such instances can also cause people to develop dermatitis herpetiformis (DH), a form of celiac disease with symptoms that include an itchy, blistering rash.
5. Your body may reject gluten whether you have celiac disease or not.
Some people may not have celiac disease but still exhibit gluten sensitivity symptoms, which can include fatigue, confusion and gastrointestinal issues. Thing is, there isn't complete consensus on the accuracy of tests to measure gluten sensitivity, so the best course of action for those who suspect gluten intolerance is to stop consuming it for a few weeks and see if you feel markedly better, as suggested by Dr. Mark Hyman..