Gluten allergies are on the rise. It is estimated that 3 million Americans, 1 percent of the population, have an allergy to the protein. There are also many more people with gluten aversions. There are 300 symptoms associated with Celiac Disease, the allergy one, and sufferers will exhibit a variety of them. The most common symptoms for children are abdominal bloating, diarrhea, vomiting, delayed growth and it can trigger Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Order ADHD. The common symptoms for adults are iron-deficiency anemia, fatigue, bone or joint pain, arthritis, bone loss or osteoporosis and depression or anxiety.
The second type of problem associated with gluten is non-celiac gluten sensitivity NCGS. These symptoms are headache or migraine, fatigue, fibromyalgia, joint and muscle pain, leg or arm numbness. This form of the disease is much harder to diagnose. A common belief is that this is not really a reaction to the protein, gluten, as much as the body not absorbing poor carbohydrates in the food.
The good news for sufferers is that the food production industries on all levels have adapted and created many gluten free items that were not available a short time ago. The most common foods containing gluten are pastas, noodles, crackers, baked goods, breading and coating mixes and certain cereals and granolas. The common theme here is that all of the foods listed start with flour as a main ingredient. This could be wheat, rye or barley flour.
There are three main types of flour available to the public. The main difference between them is the amount of gluten in each type of flour. The most common flour used is all-purpose flour. This flour has a 10-12% protein rate. If you are making a cake you want a lighter texture, so you should use cake flour at 7-9% protein. When making bread you need the most protein to keep its structure. Protein in this flour is around 13%. Another factor in gluten development is the amount of agitation given when liquid is added to flour. This is why you do not want to mix cake and cookie dough too much but you do want to mix and then knead bread dough. There are a number of ways to make these items without adding gluten.
A very common way to make foods that typically have gluten to become gluten free is to switch out the flour for non-gluten flour. Almond flour, a very popular substitute, is typically heavier than wheat flour so initially you should replace the wheat flour with the same volume of almond flour but you would probably need to add some additional leavening/raising agent. Another option is buying gluten-free flours. There are many brands available and they are usually a mix of gluten-free grains such as rice, tapioca and potato starch. It can also be made with sorghum flour, buckwheat, oats, or fava or garbanzo beans.
Another popular flour used in cakes and cookies where appropriate is coconut flour. It will retain a slight coconut flavor, so make sure it works with the dish you are making. This is the hardest replacement ingredient to make changes yourself because it does not trade out on a 1:1 ratio like most gluten-free flours do. You also need to add 1/3 -1/4 cup of coconut flour for every cup of wheat flour. You will also need to add a greater amount of egg to the dough. This will definitely be a trial and error recipe.
Gluten can also be found in some beers, ice creams, soy sauce and ketchup. These foods have much less risk for people that have an aversion because the amount is very small, but can be dangerous for people with celiac disease. Gluten is also used in cosmetics, hair care products and dermatological products.
To learn a little more about what gluten does in foods watch the video at the link below.