“Gluten Free” has been a term used a lot lately as it relates to food packaging. This is because celiac disease, and gluten intolerance, has gained public attention especially considering the dietary habits as it relates to pre-packaged foods. While celiac disease and gluten intolerance give rise to the thought that the conditions are one and the same, this is not the case.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune (overactive immunity) disorder by which one’s body cannot process gluten and damages the small intestine. Gluten intolerance causes unpleasant reactions but does not damage the small intestines. In fact, with gluten intolerance, the sufferer might experience all of the symptoms that someone with celiac disease might suffer, yet the lack of damage seems to be the only difference that experts can agree upon. In order to better understand the conditions, one must first describe what gluten is and what it does for us.
Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, barley and rye products. It also comes in a variety of foods and beverages, including but not limited to beer, bread, flour, candies, etc. It is the “glue” that holds foods together and provides pliability. For people who do not have gluten issues, gluten is a healthy aspect of one’s diet and for many can be used as a meat substitute. But for those that suffer from gluten related issues consuming can cause ill-health and malnutrition.
According to Katherine Kam’s article Going Gluten-Free. What To Know About Celiac Disease, Gluten Sensitivity, And Gluten-Free Diets, Dr. Stefano Guandalini, director of the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center states that the prevailing theory gluten related disorders are more prevalent in industrialized nations than in third-world unsanitary countries due to bacterial free product use thereby causing our systems to treat the antigens as a foreign invader and therefore must be destroyed. While having clean and antiseptic lifestyles saves us from many diseases it is a double-edged sword. Thus one might deduce that many times, we use anti-bacterial products when just soap and hot water would be sufficient.
Kam, Katherine. "Going gluten-free. What to know about celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and gluten-free diets." Web md 04/28/2011: 3. Web. 10/7/2011.