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What the Heck is Gluten?

And why should I care about it?

Gluten, it seems like everyone is talking about gluten. Moms on the playground, co-workers at the water cooler, relatives at family gatherings, it even makes the nightly news every now and then. So, what is gluten? Should you cut it out of your diet? Here’s what I learned on my quest towards understanding gluten.

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“Gluten” is a general name for proteins that are found in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale. (Don’t know what triticale is? Neither did I. I looked it up, and it’s a wheat-rye hybrid.) As the name suggests, it acts as a kind of glue, and helps foods hold together.

It isn’t necessarily bad. It’s just that some people’s systems can’t process this type of protein. These people are gluten intolerant, and get an irregular immune response from eating it. The most commonly talked about kind of gluten intolerance is celiac disease. This disease is really common: one in every 141 Americans has it!

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Gluten intolerance can cause pain in your abdominal area, digestive issues, heartburn, bloating, tiredness, and even anxiety. If you’ve been experiencing some of these symptoms, you might want to try cutting out gluten for a time to see if you feel healthier.

Cutting it out though, can be a challenge. Since it’s so useful in helping foods stay together, gluten is everywhere! You’ll find it in common foods such as bread, pasta, and cereals. Plus, you’ll see it in places that don’t seem so obvious, like soups, sauces, salad dressings, and food coloring. If you want to live gluten free, then, you need to read the labels on everything.

The good news it food labels are getting better, so it’s easier to figure out which foods are gluten-free. Plus, there are more and more gluten-free foods available every day, including quite a few tasty options from Creative Snacks.