Gluten is _________ (Fill in the Blank)

I know that there have been a lot of news features and pieces on the internet about the gluten free diet, so today I asked 12 random people to answer the question, “What is gluten?” Here are the responses I received:

1. A type of fat in the foods we eat.

2. A type of sugar.

3. Something in foods that makes people sick.

4. Found in dairy products and causes a negative reaction.

5. A muscle in your butt.

6. A substance in white bread–not good for you!

7. A product used for making breads, such as wheat.

8. An item in food, like a starch.

9. A type of sugar.

10. A component in wheat that can cause an allergic reaction when consumed.

11. A filler used in wheat.

12. A food product.

Okay, so outside of #5, in which I think that the person must have meant the gluteus muscles which indeed are part of our butts, everyone knew that gluten is food-related….this is a good thing. However, as you can see, an understanding of gluten, beyond the concept of it being present in food, is lacking in most cases.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. In people with Celiac Disease, eating gluten triggers an immune reaction which leads to damage to the lining of the small intestine and resultant nutrient deficiencies. Untreated Celiac Disease also leads to anemia, osteoporosis, cancers of the digestive tract, infertility, and other autoimmune problems, such as thyroid disease. There is emerging evidence that approximately 6-8% of the population has a condition called non-celiac gluten sensitivity and would also have improved health abstaining from gluten. I hope to discuss this problem soon. For now, as long as gluten does not make you sick, enjoy it in moderation, and remember that in the future, you may too have to give up gluten for health issues. I probably would have enjoyed my last slice of pizza, my last donut, my last Girl Scout cookie, etc. much more had I known they were the last I would ever eat!

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