Gluten-Free, What Does It Really Mean?

Are gluten allergies something that is real or is it just a fad? There are roughly three million people in the U.S. with the autoimmune disease called celiac disease. A gluten-free diet is the only form of treatment of this disease.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and cross-bred hybrids of these grains that triggers the release of antibodies in those with celiac disease. This causes inflammation and damage to the lining of the small intestine resulting in many health problems including malabsorption of certain nutrients. Even trace amounts of gluten can have a reaction for some people, including those who do not have celiac but have other digestive sensitivities.

A recent ruling by the FDA stated that for a product to be labeled gluten-free, it must not contain more than 20 parts per million of gluten. It can be processed down to these levels. It does not have to occur naturally. Processors were required to meet this definition starting in August 2014. Please be aware that “gluten-free” does not mean free of gluten, it just means low levels. Read the labels carefully if you are gluten sensitive.

The FDA states that it enforces regulations “primarily through inspections of food processing facilities, examination of imports, collection and testing of food products on the market, and imposition of enforcement measures as required to protect consumers.” How often do they inspect and what kind or resources does the FDA have for this? Nobody knows. That being said, with an enforcement body and a legitimate definition, it is much more trustworthy than a claim like all natural.

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