Basic Information and Resources for Gluten and Gluten-Free Diets

What Is All the Talk About Gluten for These Days?

Sources of Gluten

Photograph of 4 gluten sources. Top: High-gluten wheat flour. Right: European spelt. Bottom: Barley. Left: Rolled rye flakes.

If you’ve been in a restaurant in any kind of city with even the slightest progressive tendency, then you’ve heard about gluten. It’s the kind of thing that we’re all starting to see pop up in news stories, as asterisks on menus in several restaurants, on the mouths of mommies and mommy friends in line at the smoothie bar at the gym. So what’s going on? Why all the fuss?

According to Wikipedia, the very basic text book definition of Gluten goes like this: “Gluten (from Latin gluten, “glue”) is a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and related grain species, including barley and rye. It gives elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and to keep its shape, and often giving the final product a chewy texture.” Seems basic enough. So where does the trouble step in then?

Dietary Problems With Gluten

There is some controversy still gloating around the topic of how gluten intolerance may be at the heart of a number of diseases of the body, but it does seem as though more and more health and medical specialists are beginning to suggest the correlation. And it is generally agredd upon that “a gluten-free diet is the only medically accepted treatment for celiac disease, the related condition dermatitis herpetiformis, and wheat allergy,” again from the Wikipedia page on Gluten-Free diets.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that is triggered by gluten. When a person with celiac disease eats gluten, their body attacks the linking of the small intestine which leads to malabsorption and a variety of symptoms.” (The Happy Housewife). Some researchers are talking about the relationship between autism in children, and an increased sensitivity to foods, among them, gluten.

More Information on General Gluten Intolerance

“Gluten intolerance is a term that is used to describe three conditions: wheat allergy, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and celiac disease. According to research, between 5 and 10 percent of all people may suffer from some form of sensitivity. All three conditions are difficult to diagnose, however, so it is thought that many people are not aware that this intolerance may be the source of other health issues.

Most forms of gluten intolerance cause the body to produce an abnormal immune response in the presence of wheat or its proteins. An allergy to wheat can produce symptoms such as hives, difficulty breathing, and digestive problems; in serious cases, a person with this allergy can experience anaphylaxis, a sudden and severe reaction that can be life-threatening. People with celiac disease, which causes damage and inflammation in the small intestine, can suffer from bloating, weight loss, fatigue, and headaches as the body has difficulty obtaining all the nutrients it needs from food.” (Wisegeek).

And check this article out on the dangers of gluten in foods, by Mark Hyman, MD.

Laughing Planet Restaurant’s Approach to and Policy on Gluten

At Laughing Planet, our menus and restaurants all contain items which theoretically are to be considered gluten-free. However, in the interest of serving the public more than just healthy food, we think it’s best (especially because our customers’ health is in consideration), to be absolutely clear on our policy towards gluten in menu items. Our menus denote that “All items on this menu are made without gluten or can easily be made so by following the directions marked (G with slash through it symbol).” And it doesn’t end there.

More than just semantics, the difference between “without gluten” and “gluten free” is one that we take seriously. That’s why we also offer the following information: “IMPORTANT NOTE: We have an open-air food preparation facility in which we prepare a variety of products, including some with wheat. Our grills and steamers are not wheat-free; therefore nothing on our menu can be considered ‘Gluten-Free.'”

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