Gluten, a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye and barley, wreaks havoc in people with celiac disease, triggering an immune reaction that damages the small intestine and prevents absorption of nutrients.
According to statistics from the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, an average of one out of every 133 otherwise healthy people in the United States suffers from celiac disease (CD), but previous studies have found that this number may be as high as 1 in 33 in at-risk populations.
With a potential incidence rate that high, the news that you cannot trust even naturally gluten-free grains to be free of gluten contamination is disconcerting indeed.
Which Grains are Gluten Free?
Certain types of grains, seeds and flours available are naturally gluten-free, including:
- Flax and amaranth seed
Celiac disease is just one of several autoimmune disorders that can be significantly improved by avoiding grains. And if you want to avoid heart disease, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes or even cancer, you’d also want to severely limit your grain consumption, or avoid grains entirely.
Because grains and sugars are inherently pro-inflammatory and will worsen any condition that has chronic inflammation at its root – and not just inflammation in your gut, but anywhere in your body. Those with celiac disease know the importance of eliminating grains from their diet, as many cannot tolerate even minute amounts of gluten, but this message has still to take root in the collective mind when it comes to dealing with autoimmune diseases and other inflammatory conditions.
The Many Sources of Hidden Gluten
The treatment for celiac disease or gluten intolerance is a gluten-free diet, which means abstaining from grains and any food that contains gluten. Unfortunately, as this study clearly shows, you may not be able to trust that otherwise naturally gluten-free grains have not been contaminated…
You also need to be aware that food manufacturers are not required by law to identify all possible sources of gluten on their product labels, so reading the label may not be enough to identify other hiddensources of gluten.
For example, gluten often hides in processed foods like ready-made soups, soy sauce, candies, cold cuts, and various low- and no-fat products, just to name a few, under labels such as:
- Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP)
- Texturized vegetable protein (TVP)
- Natural flavoring
Celiac.com has a long list of label ingredients that typically contain hidden gluten.
For helpful tips and guidelines on how to approach food companies for more detailed information about their ingredients, see The Gluten Solution site. They also offer more detailed information about the current state of gluten-free labeling legislation.
In light of these recent study results, if you have celiac disease you may also want to contact the manufacturer of the gluten-free product in question and find out if they test for gluten content and can guarantee that it is not contaminated.
Aside from that, your best bet is to simply focus on a diet of fresh, whole foods, preferably organic whenever possible.