Please Explain: Gluten

Friday, August 19, 2011

More and more gluten-free products have been appearing on grocery store shelves in recent years, and for this week's Please Explain segment, we'll find out what gluten is and find out the causes, symptoms, and treatment for celiac disease and other gluten sensitivities. Dean Lavornia is Chair of the Baking & Pastry Department at the Johnson & Wales University College of Culinary Arts in Providence, Rhode Island. He's created a number of gluten-free recipes for those in his family with celiac disease. We'll also speak with Nutritionist Bernadette Latson, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Clinical Nutrition at the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center.

Department Chair of the Baking & Pastry Department at the Johnson & Wales University College of Culinary Arts in Providence, Rhode Island.


Bernadette Latson and Dean Lavornia

Comments [46]

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Feb. 19 2012 05:37 AM
Mac from Washington, DC

I am very very late to the conversation, but it was only the other day that I downloaded the podcast and listened to it for the first time.

My initial impression was: how basic the show was! And how much further along the suburbs are than the city on this issue.

I live in DC, but 2 years ago, I lived in some suburbs far from DC. In the suburbs, restaurants and grocery stores were extremely accommodating and knowledgeable about gluten and celiac disease. Moving to DC, I find that people are not. And from listening to the show, it seems that people aren't either, in NYC. The reason for this difference I can only conclude is the presence of children and families in suburbs has sensitized people to a much greater extent than in the city where it is every man and woman for him/herself. The presence of children makes everyone more cautious and aware. It's a big big deal for those of us adults who have celiac disease. The cities are behind.

Sep. 16 2011 04:49 PM
Mark D from Denver

Celiac disease in one thing, and scientists agree that for them to go gluten-free is necessary -- however this gluten-free lifestyle trend reaches far, far beyond that to include a wide range of "sensitivities" to gluten. For people in this latter group to be cutting out gluten can be extremely inconvenient at best and dangerous at worst.

Please Explain the psychological phenomenon that leads intelligent people to look for bizarre dietary changes to cure a vast range of maladies that they may or may not be experiencing. Gluten is certainly not the first victim of these culinary witch hunts and I doubt it will be the last.

Aug. 22 2011 05:32 PM
Annalise Roberts from NY metro area

More simply put- the major researchers have now determined that 1% of the population has celiac (although less than 5% have been diagnosed) and close to 20% have gluten-sensitivity, though some researchers estimate it is more.

The gluten protein is very long and strong and not easily broken down. Our hunter-gather ancestors never ate wheat/gluten and the human GI tract never evolved to digest it. We have no enzymes to break it down and so the gliadin peptides (in gluten) remain in the intestine after ingestion. The gliadin peptides are recognized as an invader, antibodies are released, the gut becomes inflamed and increases the permeability of the intestinal wall leading to further inflammation and a leaky gut. Then, large molecules of gliadin, bacteria, viruses, yeast and other toxins enter the bloodstream causing more inflammation throughout the body. Everyone responds differently to the presence of large proteins in the body, depending on his or her particular genetic profile, stress level, amount of intestinal bacteria, and exposure to toxins. But once the proteins enter the bloodstream and travel to other organs in the body, even healthy, active people can experience diarrhea, headaches, chronic fatigue, arthritis, skin rashes, and allergies.

The connection between gluten and inflammatory diseases is explained in The Gluten-Free Good Heath Cookbook http://www.amazon.com/Gluten-Free-Good-Health-Cookbook-Inflammation/dp/1572841052/

And for those who do want to create delicious gluten-free baked goods that as close as you'll come to those made with wheat, then try my recipes at www.foodphilosopher.com and mygluten-freetable.com.

And yes, I do recommend making your own flour mix because most of the mixes contain xanthan gum and it is better to add your own depending on what you are making and what the ingredients are (although my all purpose flour mix is now made my Authentic Foods, it does not contain gums; you add your own).

And a gluten-free diet can be incredibly nutritious because it "forces" you to eat more fresh, whole foods that you make yourself instead of eating highly processed and prepared food that is often full of chemicals.

Aug. 22 2011 01:50 PM
Debbie from NJ

Lucy, my 7 year old daughter was recently diagnosed with Celiac too and continued to have symptoms for a few weeks after we switched to a strict gluten free diet. We soon learned that she was also lactose intolerant (which will hopefully go away after her body heals). This was causing similar symptoms to ingesting gluten (stomach aches, etc). Once we removed the lactose she was better. We have reintroduced lactose but she now has lactaid before dairy and is doing well. Good luck!

Aug. 22 2011 11:35 AM
kyle from oregon

please explain the glycemic index...

Aug. 21 2011 07:20 PM
Mom of 2 celiacs from New Jersey

My two children, sister, nephew and 75+ year old father were all diagnosed with celiac within the last 3 years. It is a simple blood test followed by an endoscopy for confirmation. Once one is diagnosed, you need to "shake the family tree" and test everyone. You should always be tested before eliminating gluten from your diet or it will throw off results when you want to get tested. There are wonderful gluten free baking books. Our families favorite is Annalise Robert's Classic gf baking. She uses the Authentic Foods brown rice flour which can be bought already mixed into a combo ready for recipes. My kids friends love the cupcakes more than my previous glutenous recipe. We also use the Zojurushi bread maker with Pamela's bread mix for fresh easy yummy bread.
In some countries, the blood test is part of routine pediatric care, but in the US only 2 % of those who have celiac know it. My theory is that since the correction is diet, and not drugs, there is no money in this disease for the drug companies, so we don't have standard testing here.
I found the guest to be rather self-serving in not helping people out with cookbooks except for his own. There are many good websites for recipes too...such as whole foods and canyon ranch and allrecipes.com. You can also adapt your own recipes, or check out the many gf blogs. Just avoid wheat, rye, barley, malt and oats. GF can be delicious!

Aug. 19 2011 05:38 PM
Nicole Hunn from Westchester County, NY

I was the last caller on the show, and was unable to finish making the point that gluten-free is MORE than 'okay' as the pastry chef who was on believes. Pizza should taste like pizza. Gluten-free consumers should demand as much from this billion dollar marketplace. And if you are new to gluten-free baking, do NOT make your own flour blend. It is truly a hit-or-miss process, and you will lose confidence in your ability to bake gluten-free in a hurry, and become discouraged and demoralized. Buy one of the all-purpose gluten-free blends on the market. In my cookbook, Gluten-Free on a Shoestring, and on my blog of the same name, I use and recommend Better Batter. It is a true cup for cup replacement. All is not lost. You can cook, bake, entertain and enjoy your life. Count on it.

Aug. 19 2011 02:06 PM
Nicole Hunn from Westchester County, NY

I was the last caller on the show, and was unable to finish making the point that gluten-free is MORE than 'okay' as the pastry chef who was on believes. Pizza should taste like pizza. Gluten-free consumers should demand as much from this billion dollar marketplace. And if you are new to gluten-free baking, do NOT make your own flour blend. It is truly a hit-or-miss process, and you will lose confidence in your ability to bake gluten-free in a hurry, and become discouraged and demoralized. Buy one of the all-purpose gluten-free blends on the market. In my cookbook, Gluten-Free on a Shoestring, and on my blog of the same name, I use and recommend Better Batter. It is a true cup for cup replacement. All is not lost. You can cook, bake, entertain and enjoy your life. Count on it.

Aug. 19 2011 02:05 PM
Elle from Westchester

My daughter was diagnosed with celiac age 6; she's now 12, so we've been doing the GF diet for a long time. I disagree about Dean's suggestion that there's a trade-off between taste and eating healthy. He should try the pizza at Risoteria!

The reason celiac is being diagnosed more is that now there are blood tests for antibodies to the proteins in gluten. In the past, one had to have very severe disease with severe villous atrophy in the small intestine before being diagnosed. This is not a fad diet; it represents an advance in diagnostic testing.

Aug. 19 2011 02:04 PM

Would you, please, address the connection between gluten sensitivity and casein sensitivity? As I understand, in most cases these two go together.

Aug. 19 2011 01:58 PM
lizzy from East Village

I am allergic to wheat, rye and barley-- could this actually be a gluten intolerance since these three grains seem to have the highest amount of gluten?

Aug. 19 2011 01:56 PM

Why is this allergy so popular all of a sudden? It seems to be a trend gaining speed for picky eaters and model/ club types to run servers and kitchens around. I don't recall anyone having this allergy ten years ago to such degree.

Aug. 19 2011 01:56 PM

To the caller who asked about flours: it is better to buy flours online and then make your own mix. This way you may create a more nutritious blend, because most of the store brands base their mixes mostly on cheaper and less nutritious rice flour. Look for amaranth flour, millet, purple corn, quinoa, buckwheat, almond, garbanzo bean, tapioca, teff, sorghum, coconut, and certified GF oat flour. Some of these flours you may buy sprouted. You may mix any of those with brown rice flour and create great nutritious flour mixes at home for much lesser price.

Aug. 19 2011 01:56 PM
David from the Upper west side

As someone who cooks, i find cooking gluten free makes things more interesting.

I have also done taste tests with some chocolate chip cookie recipes that are gluten free vs ones with gluten and people have preferred the gluten free cookies!

Here is a great gluten free cookbook
Gluten Free Baking
Annalise Roberts

Aug. 19 2011 01:55 PM
Amy from Manhattan

jagiaffw, I almost wrote in about the same thing! Technically, even rice isn't a grain either but a grass. And of course, chickpeas (Mr. Lavornia mentioned garbanzo flour) aren't.

Aug. 19 2011 01:55 PM
Mary from Manhattan

None of the guests have mentioned this yet but it is also possible to have a yeast or mold allergy. A yeast allergy is not the same as being gluten sensitive. But it does explain why some people have adverse reactions to eating bread or baked goods. It is a reaction to the yeast, not the gluten.

Aug. 19 2011 01:54 PM
Gary from Port Washington

Is there a higher rate of Celiac Disease in younger people vs. older people. There seems to be increase in asthma in younger kids and peanut allergies, are there any studies with correlation between the illness. Could the increase in processed foods and the present diet aggravate the condition?

Aug. 19 2011 01:53 PM
deb from brooklyn

Hi, I have an allergy to yeast (as well as all raw fruits, vegetables and nuts) so my diet, like celiac's though different, is very restricted. do you have any recommendations to what might replace yeast? Baking soda only does so much for certain baked goods.

Aug. 19 2011 01:52 PM
Amy from Manhattan

josh, I'm not sure who you mean when you say "*our* diet." Wheat & other gluten-containing grains have been part of the diets of human populations in many parts of the world for thousands of years. And gluten is certainly a plant protein!

Aug. 19 2011 01:50 PM

My daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease last year at the age of 21. Although she is following a very strict gluten free diet for the past year she continues to have symptoms which her doctor says will continue until all is healed in her digestive system. Should it be taking this long for healing to take place?

Aug. 19 2011 01:49 PM
Jesse Friszell from Long Beach

My girlfriend has ulcerative colitis. She has a gluten intolerance as well as a Dairy alergy. She's actually alergic to the casein part of Dairy. Does the Chef have any suggestions for baking?, or maybe we can email him for some recipes because she hasn't had a decent cinnamon roll in 5 years.

Aug. 19 2011 01:49 PM
OJL from Newark

Our 2.5 year old daughter is apparently allergic to wheat, but her doctor has confirmed she does not have Celiac disease. Is it true that children with an allergy to wheat often outgrow it when they reach 3-4 years of age as we have been told?

Aug. 19 2011 01:49 PM
Debra from NJ

My friend's gluten intolerance led to her starting a new business - a bakery, "Gluten Free Gloriously". She has some great links on her site, too. Check it out: at www.glutenfreegloriously.com

Aug. 19 2011 01:48 PM

Quinoa NOT a grain!
Early in the show, one of the guests said that Quinoa is a grain.


Quinoa ( /ˈkiːnwɑː/ or /kɨˈnoʊ.ə/, Spanish: quinua, from Quechua: kinwa), a species of goosefoot (Chenopodium), is a grain-like crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. It is a pseudocereal rather than a true cereal, or grain, as it is not a member of the grass family. As a chenopod, quinoa is closely related to species such as beets, spinach, and tumbleweeds.

"quinoa." Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002. http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com (19 Aug. 2011).

Etymology: Spanish, from Quechua quinua
1 : a pigweed (Chenopodium quinoa) of the high Andes of So. America
2 : the seeds of the quinoa plant that are ground for food and widely used as a cereal in Peru

Aug. 19 2011 01:47 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Aren't there other intestinal diseases that are affected by gluten? What about Crohn's disease or irritable bowel syndrome (which I think is a more generic term?)?

Aug. 19 2011 01:46 PM

Gluten is a recent addition to our diet (400/500 years). Particularly in the US, we enhance the gluten content of products as compared with Europe. Gluten is a harsher protein than plant proteins. many people dont even realize that their gluten intake is responsible for their intestinal problems and maintaining a healthy immune system

Aug. 19 2011 01:44 PM
brooklyn mom

Is this why Crohn's disease is improved by a grain-free diet?

Aug. 19 2011 01:44 PM
Diane from Tarrytown

After living with and cooking for a family member with celiac, I find I can no longer tolerate gluten products...guess I've become sensitive to it.

Aug. 19 2011 01:44 PM
Amy from Manhattan

We now know that grain & legume proteins don't have to be eaten in the same meal to supply the body w/"complete protein," but don't people still need proteins from different sources? Do people who can't eat gluten have any problem getting enough of all the proteins/amino acids they need in their food?

Aug. 19 2011 01:43 PM
Thom from Brooklyn

I've heard that using a truly wild sourdough culture to make bread can make bread digestible by celiac sufferers, is this true?

Aug. 19 2011 01:42 PM
Kathryn from Brooklyn

Eliminating gluten doesn't necessarily mean your diet will be less nutritious in B vitamins etc. if you eat a balanced diet of "real foods" like other whole grains that are GF, legumes, fish, meat, vegetables etc.

Legumes have lots of B vitamins.

Aug. 19 2011 01:41 PM
Yuji from Queens

I add a flax meal slurry (a couple of tsps of flax meal combine with equal amount of boiling water, mix) to baked goods to make it chewier so it is closer to the texture of flour with gluten.

Aug. 19 2011 01:41 PM
Michele from new york

I tested flours for over a year, after my colleague at Gourmet magazine was diagnosed with celiac disease. WOW! Hats off to wheat for texture, mouth feel and taste. I continue to eat gluten free because flours made with other grains are more digestible. Thumbs up to tapioca flours.

Aug. 19 2011 01:41 PM

could gluten be behind my 20 year old son's inability to gain weight even though he tested negative for celiac disease?

Aug. 19 2011 01:37 PM
Mauro from Astoria

most European countries Health Care systems give people diagnosed with Celiac Disease a voucher to buy GF products in the pharmacy. Just because there is not drug to take, in the US Celiac Disease it not treated like a real "disease" by health insurances. It would be nice having a decent health care system.

Aug. 19 2011 01:36 PM

I have wondered if the rise in gluten sensitivity has been connected to the increase in genetically modified foods on the shelves. Especially since foods do not indicate whether or not foods have gmo s in them. Has this ever been explored?

Aug. 19 2011 01:36 PM
Mary Beth from Manhattan

I was surprised that most lipsticks have gluten. Can you speak about gluten in cosmetics, especially lipstick which women ingest all day long!

Aug. 19 2011 01:35 PM
Valerie from Dunellen, NJ

What types of alcohol and vinegars may have traces of gluten? Some of my GF friends avoid vanilla extract and pickles that have vinegar as an ingredient, for example, for the fear that these products might have gluten in them.

Aug. 19 2011 01:35 PM
B from UWS

one guest just said ciliac disease is a "genetically-based condition." what genes are involved?

Aug. 19 2011 01:33 PM
dee from ny

does whiskey have gluten?

Aug. 19 2011 01:29 PM
Kathryn from Brooklyn

Can your guest address cross-contimination. For instance even though many grains are gluten free they are often processed in facilities where wheat is processed. Bob's Red Mill sells grains that are processed in special facilities only for gluten free grains.

Aug. 19 2011 01:28 PM
Ken from Soho

I like gluten. I guess that makes me a "gluten glutton".

Aug. 19 2011 01:28 PM
Allison from Northern NJ

Will you develop a full blown gluten allergy if you are diagnosed with a sensitivity and do not modify your diet?

Aug. 19 2011 01:24 PM
Michael from NYC

Even if you tested negative for celiac disease there is now talk of being "gluten sensitive." Some people say that their feeling of well being improved by being on a gluten free diet. Would you guest address that.

Aug. 19 2011 01:11 PM

There are traditions - that we have forgotten about - of treating grains to neutralize the difficulty they present to our digestive systems - lime water soaking for corn in Latin America, lemon, yogurt, whey-soaking oats (and pulses) and of course making sourdough bread. Food traditionalists say it's the latest industrial methods that speed up bread making that are the culprits of the ubiquity of celiac and other digestion issues.

Aug. 19 2011 11:48 AM

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