Over the past year, we’ve all heard a lot more about gluten-free diets in the news, on talk shows, and all over the media as more and more health experts and celebrities talk about their gluten-free lifestyles. Yet most Americans still have no idea what this means. So what is gluten? And why avoid it?
Gluten is the protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. It is this protein that acts as a binding agent in most baked goods, giving elasticity to dough and that wonderful chewy “mouth feel” to the final product. It is a protein, so many people even consume gluten as a dietary supplement, and some cultures use pure gluten as the basis for many buns and dumplings.
So what’s wrong with gluten? For many people, gluten can cause symptoms like digestive difficulty and lethargy. For some, it may aggravate other medical conditions such as chronic fatigue, multiple sclerosis, attention deficit disorder, migraines, and fertility problems. And for more and more people every year who are diagnosed with celiac disease, it is downright toxic.
At present, approximately one in 100 is estimated to have celiac disease, also known as celiac sprue. This is a genetic condition that makes it impossible to digest the gluten which is so prevalent in the American diet. In individuals with celiac disease who are not on a gluten-free diet, the undigested gluten accumulates in the digestive tract, causing an auto-immune reaction that damages the intestine to the point of non-functionality.
When gluten pollutes the intestine, all the tiny villi, which line the intestinal wall, are blocked – basically drowned in glutinous muck. The villi are the primary means of nutrient absorption in the intestine, and when they’re not healthy, they don’t do their job. Thus, the body does not receive the nutritional benefit available from the food it takes in.
Another growing reason why more consumers are opting for a gluten-free diet is to help in the treatment of children with autism. While this is still the subject of great debate, many parents, doctors, and researchers say children have shown mild to dramatic improvements in speech and/or behavior after gluten was removed from their diets. One theory is that people with autism can’t process gluten, and it builds up and forms peptides, which act like opiates, in their bodies. This can alter behavior, perceptions, and responses to environmental stimuli. (Your child’s doctor can perform a urinary peptide test which will show if proteins re being broken down properly.)
Whatever the reason for eliminating gluten, it can take up to 6 months for the body to rid itself of the protein after going on a GF diet. During this period, nutritionists suggest taking Fish Oil, Folic Acid, and Calcium to aid in the transition. Most people find that this diet gives them increased energy, alleviates many chronic digestive complaints, and even aids in the relief of many other conditions.
In the US, demand for gluten-free products has increased exponentially in the last few years. Studies show that approximately 8% of the population looks for gluten-free products when shopping. Nielsen Co., the same company that tracks TV ratings, also tracks gluten-free food in US grocery, drug, and mass-merchandiser retail settings. They report that the gluten-free sector increased 20% in the 12-month period from June 2008 to June 2009. In 2004, 214 gluten-free products were introduced n the US. In 2007, that number grew to over 7000 new products. Over the next few years, a 15 – 20% annual growth rate is expected. All of these figures show how this health issue is becoming more and more a focus of attention in America, and bode well for the many people with celiac disease who have found it difficult to find the specialty products they need.
All of Crave Bakery’s products are completely gluten-free and most are dairy-free. They are all-natural, free of hydrogenated oils, and made with fresh organic ingredients including whole free-range eggs. The best part is that they are delicious enough for anyone to love, regardless of their health concerns. Look for our products online or ask for them at your local retailer. You will find that Crave’s delicious cakes, tarts, cookies, and brownies make it easy and safe to give your whole family the treats they love – and Crave.