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What is Gluten and why is there so much controversy over the topic?

Gluten is a naturally occurring protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and related grains, 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.

Gluten sensitivities occur in people who suffer from a condition known as Celiac disease. Celiac disease is an abnormal immune reaction to partially digested Gliadin, which means that sufferers are unable to ingest any food containing Gluten without experiencing symptoms such as chronic diarrhea, fatigue, headaches and nausea.

So here is where the controversy comes in, Gluten is added to many commercial food products, for example processed meats (meat typically being a Gluten free product), ice creams, tablet medications and vitamins all contain Gluten. The term ‘Gluten’ will not always be listed on the food label ingredients, but may be listed under other names like-

  • Modified food starch
  • MSG
  • Textured vegetable protein (a substitute for meat products)
  • Emulsifiers
  • Soy sauce

Another contentious issue is that food companies are legally required to list all the ingredients in the food item, but are not required to list what is on the food. For example, anything that is manufactured as individual pieces and supposedly Gluten free could be dusted in wheat flour just before being packaged, to prevent the pieces from sticking together.