Identifying the Problem

I think I can safely say that food allergies suck. Eating is supposed to be a pleasurable experience, but when meal time becomes a perilous adventure due to a potential allergy trigger, one may begin to resent their lot in life.

Six years ago I had no idea my genetics ran contrary to my dollar cheeseburger and TV dinner habit. A bit of intestinal damage and an E.R. visit later, I began to tinker with the composition of my diet with an eye toward problem ingredients. Limiting wheat and gluten showed a reduction of symptoms. However, the hunt continued to identify foods that contained the suspected agent provocateur.

GrainsFor the uninitiated, gluten is a specific type of protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Gluten is also naturally present in varying degrees in bulgur, farro, kamut, and spelt. Those afflicted with Celiac disease are highly intolerant of gluten, as even small amounts will prompt an enzyme reaction that ultimately results in damage to the lining of the small intestine (villous atrophy), interfering with the digestion of nutrients.

Individuals with gluten sensitivities have to have a keen eye for label reading and other subtle threats. Drowning your sorrows in beer is more hazardous than usual, as barley malt is a component in most brews. A comforting bowl of soup could deliver a gut punch, either through a thickening agent of wheat flour or hydrolyzed vegetable protein, of which wheat is a common component. Bologna is still baloney, as many processed foods utilize gluten as a binder, stabilizer and filler. While going gluten free does eliminate many options for wholegrains in a diet, alternative foods can still be used for balanced meal planning. Replacement starches derived from rice, potato, corn and tapioca can serve great utility in gluten free cuisine. For your complex carbohydrate fix, surrogate whole grains include: amaranth, sorghum, millet, buckwheat and quinoa.

The definition and standards of “gluten free” labeling as per the FDA is a relatively recent advent. As of August 2013, foods labeled “gluten free” cannot contain a glutencontaining grain, or be derived from a gluten-containing grain not processed to remove gluten. Foods that have been processed in this manner must result in a presence of less than 20 parts per million (ppm) in order to receive this label. Keep in mind though, that there is a significant distinction between “gluten free” items and those that are “made with gluten free ingredients”. Cross contamination is always a concern when dealing with food items made in a shared kitchen space, or packaged and processed on shared equipment. For example, oats are biologically gluten free; though the consumption of oats may provoke a reaction in sensitive individuals due to shared farming, harvesting and processing methods.

At LifeSource, we have attempted to make gluten free meal planning a bit easier. Items labeled by the manufacturer as gluten free have been given a yellow shelf label, with the designation -Gluten Free- at the bottom. Other items, such as our Deli’s famous chocolate brownies, have the designation “Made with Gluten Free Ingredients” because they are not made in a separate dedicated facility, nor certified to be under the 20 ppm threshold. Caution must be exercised, as these food items will potentially provoke an allergic reaction in those with acute sensitivity.

A separate, yet similar, issue exists in our bulk department, as gluten free items may become contaminated through transport or retail mishandling (oops, wrong scoop). Food sensitivity is a very dynamic issue, varying from person to person based on disease and the extent of damage present. It is always best to err on the side of caution in any of these matters, read labels, contact manufacturers, and ask any of our LifeSource staff about your specific concern. We will do our best to address your questions and concerns.

For a list of products carried by LifeSource that have been designated gluten free by manufacturer, please visit the info booth at the front of the store and look for the booklet titled “Gluten-Free Products.” Be sure to bring reading glasses because there are quite a few.

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