Glutens are mixtures of proteins originating from cereal grains. Gluten can keep dough from crumbling, make it stretch, and are 75-80% protein. They cause serious illness in people with celiac disease, who must completely avoid gluten just like a person with diabetes must avoid sugar. Although we throw around the term “gluten”, there are actually several glutens. One type is a storage protein called prolamin, which helps make grains hardy. Over generations, we have selectively bred cereal grasses, such as wheat and rye, to contain more of these.
These higher levels can provoke problems. Most of us can handle a moderate amount, just as we can enjoy some sun on our skin without feeling burnt. Whether it’s gluten on our gut lining or sun on our skin, too much is bad. However, the right amount of exposure is a matter of personal comfort and tolerance. Because modern wheat is more irritating than its ancient counterparts, and we understand the cause and effect workings of our intestines better, many people without celiac disease now also avoid gluten.
Today’s wheat may trigger immune reactions, depending on both how well your body can handle it, and on your patterns of consumption.
Although there are no GMO wheats grown for consumption in the USA or Canada, we do grow highly hybridized wheat. Hybrid wheat has protein combinations that didn’t exist before, and is deaminized to make it water-soluble. This altered wheat is now in virtually every kind of processed food, increasing exposure. Some people are prone to a sensitivity to deaminated wheat that can lead to increased gut permeability. It leaks into their blood stream and their confused immune systems launch an attack.
Since the structure of gluten proteins mimic body tissues, in such an immune attack, both are destroyed. Auto-immunity is increasing and is strongly linked to gluten consumption. Those with a family history of allergy, asthma, or eczema (atopy) or rheumatoid arthritis, rosacea, or thyroid disease (autoimmunity) are wise to be mindful of their consumption.
It is important to note that consuming foods remade as gluten-free ‘just in case’ is not generally advisable, though.
The impression that they are healthier is misleading. Foods remade as gluten-free are often high in sugar or fat in an attempt to be moist or palatable. They are often lower in protein and vital nutrients than their whole grain counterparts, also. Eating a variety of whole foods, choosing organic or ancient grains, and fewer processed convenience foods is a sound way to minimize the risk of becoming gluten sensitive.
Additionally, while it is possible to be allergic to wheat or gluten, having a celiac or non-celiac sensitivity is not the same as having an allergy. It is, however, increasingly common to be reactive to the fungicides used on domestic wheat crops. Suspect this is the case if switching to organic wheat or European varieties, such as Einkorn wheat, resolves it.
Food made under good manufacturing practices (GMP), with not exceeding 20 ppm, are generally considered to be gluten-free, and this is what certifiers look for. If a person eats only these foods, they can stay under 10mg/day, an amount that people with celiac disease usually tolerate. Oats do not contain it themselves, however, they are grown closely to wheat. In Canada, as a means of consumer protection, oats are not considered gluten-free* as a result of cross-contamination.
Based on their ingredients, most Flora products should be free of gluten.
Our production facilities and methods are GMP and designed to avoid cross-contamination. Although we test many products internally for gluten, to keep the cost to consumers down, we certify only those at highest risk that may grow in fields near to where wheat is grown. Wheatgrass (CA) is an exception. Our wheatgrass is harvested when it contains the most phytonutrients, prior to the jointing stage when the starchy, gluten-containing grain develops. Therefore, it naturally contains no gluten and is safe for most people with NCGS, although it is not certified as safe for those with celiac disease.
Our Certified Gluten-Free products are our Flora Flax Oil (US/CA), DHA Flax Oil (US/CA), and soon, our Green Blend (US)/Beyond Greens (CA). For a complete list of Flora products that naturally do not contain gluten, please contact Flora’s Product Information Department at 1-888-436-6697.
*Unless tested and certified gluten-free
About the author: Dana Remedios
Holistic Nutritionist Dana Green Remedios, RHN, RNCP has a passion for helping others break through their blocks to greater health, wealth, and happiness, working with transformational mind-body tools. The Vancouver-based educator and coach answers your questions in English, French, and Spanish as a Specialist working in the Product Information Department at Flora, and is a regular contributor to the FloraHealthy blog.