What is Gluten? (Plus Gluten Free & Low Gluten Grains)

by Chrystal Johnson on June 11, 2013

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what-is-glutenWhen I tell people I’m gluten free, I often get asked, “What is gluten?” Gluten is the sticky protein found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. Gluten is also found in relatives of wheat, including spelt, farro, kamut, triticale and einkorn.

This is why you see people on a gluten free diet avoiding foods like bread, pasta, tortillas and more. Gluten is also hidden in foods you wouldn’t suspect such as conventional soy sauce and lunchmeat.

Why Go Gluten Free?

Everyone has their reasons, but some of the symptoms of a gluten intolerance or allergy include:

  • Pain or discomfort in the digestive tract
  • Chronic constipation or diarrhea, failure to thrive
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis

It’s estimated that 1 in 7 people has a gluten sensitivity of some form, so if you experience these symptoms – consider a potential gluten sensitivity. Read Wheat Belly for more information on why gluten has become a growing health problem.

Which Grains are Gluten Free?

Going on a gluten-free diet seems daunting at first, but I have been at it for close to a year and a half. There are many grains and starches that you can still eat on a gluten free diet, including amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, gluten free oats, millet, montina, lupin, quinoa, sorghum, taro, teff, chia seed, rice, corn, potatoes and tapioca (derived from cassava).

Please note: while rice and corn contain a form of gluten, it’s not the same gluten as in the previously mentioned grains. So, most people on a gluten free diet should be able to tolerate these grains (although I do not recommend eating corn often, even if it’s organic, due to GMO cross-contamination concerns).

Low Gluten Grains (Einkorn)

I have recently been reading that some people with a gluten sensitivity (not true celiac disease) can tolerate some of the more heritage breeds of wheat such as einkorn. Einkorn is considered the “original” wheat, and carries only 14 chromosomes whereas modern wheat can carry up to 42 chromosomes.

Einkorn is also high in minerals and nutrients including B vitamins and beta carotene. In addition, einkorn doesn’t carry the D genome, which causes gut inflammation.

Because of all of these factors, einkorn is much more digestible than modern wheat. I have recently been able to digest eggs again as well as cultured dairy such as cheese and sour cream, so I am considering taking the dive and giving einkorn a try. It would be so nice to have a less restricted diet!

I have been reading a lot about einkorn, and have found Jovial to be the brand most often recommended. Einkorn is more expensive than modern wheat, but if I can digest it, it’s worth it, right?

Have you tried Einkorn? Have you found it to be more digestible than modern wheat?

—–

Sources

  1. Wikipedia
  2. What is Gluten, Anyway?
  3. What is Gluten?
  4. What is Gluten?
  5. All About Einkorn Flour
  6. The 4 Reasons Why I’m Switching to Einkorn Wheat
  7. Sprouted Einkhorn Flour

About Chrystal Johnson

Chrystal, publisher of Happy Mothering, is a mother of two sweet girls who believes in living a simple, natural lifestyle. A former marketing manager, Chrystal spends her time researching green and eco-friendly alternatives to improve her family's life. She enjoys sharing those discoveries with anyone who's willing to listen.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Erin June 11, 2013 at 6:54 am

Interesting. I haven’t heard of Einkorn. I’d be hesitant to try it for fear it might fall into the cross reactive category and would cause my auto immune issues to flare up. Hopefully once my gut is healed fully, I can start reintroducing some foods to see if I tolerate them! Please let us know if you can tolerate this if you try it!
Erin recently posted..Fly on the Wall

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2 Chrystal Johnson June 11, 2013 at 8:50 am

I definitely will! I’ll be getting some einkorn flour and pasta to try soon and will keep you posted.

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3 Ahley brown
Twitter: ashleybrownhd
June 12, 2013 at 6:24 am

Thanks Chrystal, for giving us such knowledge. Yes you are right, it is found in cereal & it is also present in different types of breads as well. Gluten intolerance may often result in a disease known as Coeliac Disease. Ingesting gluten leads to irreversible damage of the lining of the small intestine.

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