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Glutens for Punishment: Our Love Affair with a Protein that Increasingly Doesn’t Love Us Back

“It’s not you gluten, it’s me,” murmur the newly diagnosed. Cereal, bread, and pizza have to go. For most, it’s not an easy break-up. Thankfully, gluten-free offerings are everywhere these days, from restaurant menus to the aisles of grocery stores.

Many places in the Denver area and on the Front Range cater specifically to those seeking these goods. And more are bound to open as the number of people diagnosed with gluten sensitivity and celiac disease continue to rise.

A 2009 study by the Mayo Clinic found that celiac disease is four times more common today than it was in the 1950s, and the Denver chapter of the Celiac Support Group is more active than ever.

Which begs the question: Are gluten-related conditions really becoming more prevalent or are doctors simply becoming more adept at diagnoses?

But first things first. Just what, exactly, is gluten, and what is the difference between gluten sensitivity and celiac disease?

Gluten is a complex protein, difficult to digest, found in wheat, rye, and barley, along with thousands of processed foods. Gluten sensitivity is defined as a non-allergic and non-autoimmune condition where the intake of gluten can lead to gastrointestinal and other related symptoms. Celiac disease, on the other hand, is a lifelong autoimmune condition characterized by the chronic inflammation of the intestine. For celiacs, gluten flattens the villi—finger-like projections of the small intestine—and reduces the absorption of vitamins and nutrients.

Now back to our question. According to the above study by the Mayo Clinic, as well as numerous studies in Europe, gluten sensitivity and celiac disease seem to be on the rise along with other auto-immune conditions.  So what could be causing this?

Nobody knows for certain, but theories abound. Some in the medical community believe that the overly sanitized environments in which we live don’t allow our immune system to do what it was meant to do and it starts to turn on itself.

Others believe that the way wheat and other grains are grown and processed has changed for the worse. And that the abundance of highly processed and genetically modified foods in the American diet has an adverse effect on our bodies.

Yet others believe that doctors are just getting better at diagnosing the conditions as recognition of the issue spreads and tests improve.

Whatever the reason, there seems to be consensus that gluten sensitivity and celiac disease are definitely on the rise.

Foods That Contain Gluten

  • Wheat
  • Rye
  • Barley
  • Spelt
  • Triticale
  • Many processed foods

Foods That DO NOT Contain Gluten

  • Wild rice
  • Corn
  • Buckwheat
  • Millet
  • Amaranth
  • Quinoa
  • Teff
  • Soybeans
  • Sunflower seeds

Related Programming

Fast Fact

Celiac disease was first discovered by a Greek physician name Aretaeus of Cappadocia, in the first century A.D.

Gluten-Free Recipe

Roasted Green Beans with Lemon, Pine Nuts, and ParmigianoIngredients1-1/4 lb. fresh green beans, rinsed well, stem ends trimmed
1 small head garlic
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

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Serves 4 to 6
Position oven racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven. Heat the oven to 450°F. Put the beans in a large bowl. Peel the garlic, quarter each clove lengthwise (if the cloves are small, halve them), and add them to the green beans.

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Source: Udi’s Gluten-Free Recipes

Gluten-Free Restaurants in Denver


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