What the gluten?!

Being fairly new to celiac disease I was astonished to discover the amount of products that contain gluten – products you wouldn’t even think of! Before being diagnosed I admit that I was a little ignorant to what I believed was a gluten-free fad. I remember being at the grocery store with my mom looking at a package of deli ham that had “gluten-free” printed on it. I turned to my mom and laughed, “Yeah cause meat isn’t already ‘gluten-free.'” The fact is, not all meat is gluten-free. On the contrary, many products contain “hidden gluten.” I put hidden gluten in quotation marks as it is found in seemingly gluten-free products, but of course can be found in the ingredients. The thing is, many people don’t know that certain foods other than baked goods can contain gluten. Below I’ve listed a few examples of this:

  • chocolate (And I’m talking chocolate without wafers! There are many companies that add barley malt to their chocolate as it acts as a sweetener.)
  • garlic powder (Only certain brands)
  • Dijon mustard (Only certain brands)
  • soy sauce (Contains wheat)
  • Worcestershire sauce (Contains barley malt)
  • Campbell’s condensed soups (Wheat flour is added to help thicken, barley yeast extract is added to some)
  • hamburgers (When held together with bread crumbs)
  • sausages (Wheat flour is added to cheese-filled varieties)

My question now is, why do these items (and others) have to contain gluten at all?

It’s clear that celiac disease and gluten sensitivity aren’t going away anytime soon. As of now there is no pill to counteract the body’s response like there is for those with lactose intolerance. People with celiac disease have to abide by a strict gluten-free diet in order to survive (and no, I’m not overreacting when I say that). Many people are unaware of how much celiac disease can affect someone’s health. People have asked me many times, “Oh so your stomach gets upset if you eat it, no big deal, right?” but it’s much more than that. Celiac affects the small intestine and damages the teeny-tiny finger-like projections that absorb nutrients. With those out of commission the body can’t absorb the proper nutrients to survive, and in turn can lead to many other issues throughout the body; when one thing is out of whack the whole body suffers.

So I ask again, why do these items have to contain gluten? There are many alternatives that can thicken, sweeten, and colour foods – so why do they have to be grain-derived ingredients? You may say that it makes no sense to start changing every recipe and that it will cost big companies too much money for the small population of those with celiac disease and the like, but I’m willing to bet that this is just the beginning of these sensitivities and diseases.

Luckily in the meantime there are many substitute products out there… but there’s still nothing like a grilled cheese sandwich and a good old cup of Campbell’s tomato soup.

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