In order to have a clear gluten free definition, we must first understand what is gluten.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, oats and rye. This protein is composed of glutenins and gliadins.
Is what gives foods (specially breads) a gummy feeling inside the mouth. Gluten is what makes dough flexible.
Gluten comes from the latin glutinis which means a sticky substance or “glue”. This specific property of gluten is what makes it a nightmare, because it is sticky by nature. It means that it will adhere itself into whatever comes in contact with it. The gluten particles will stick into anything they touch, this is called cross contamination. This is the reason why so many foods that do not contain gluten in their natural state could contain it.
Due to the cross contamination I just described, gluten can be found in most industrialized foods.
When a cereal processing machine is used to process any kind of wheat cereal, it automatically gets gluten contaminated. If then the same machine is used to process corn based cereals, even if by nature these serials do not contain gluten, just by passing through this machine they would be cross contaminated.
The right way to do it would be to stop the machine completely and fully wash it every time they process a different kind of cereal, however, because of productivity costs this is never done, or it is done at scheduled times when and if the machine needs maintenance, not to clean it from cross contamination.
If at any part of the industrial process any machine that is used to process anything containing wheat, oats, rye or soy (soy most of the times is wheat cross contaminated), it will contaminate whatever else is used on that machine as well. Even the packaging process is risky.
An other problem is that gluten is used as a conservative, so many fozen foods may contain it, like frozen french fries (which most fast food restaurants use).
So, what is gluten free?
Gluten free is not only foods that do not contain gluten, but a way of processing foods that strives to keep them safe from gluten so that people with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease could eat them safely. This is why there are now facilities intended exclusively to process foods that do not contain gluten.
Is a gluten free diet healtheir?
Yes and no, let me explain.
Yes in the sense that gluten has been linked to many illneses, not only celiac disease. These may include but are not limited to gut problems, heart problems, brain problems, bone problems, mind fogs, issues in the nervous system, skin problems, etc. So eliminating gluten from your diet will obviously potentially prevent illneses caused by gluten.
No in the sense that most “gluten free” foods are a replacement for junk food: Bread, Pasta, Cookies, Pizza, etc. So even if you are eating a gluten free diet, you are still eating junk food, which is never healty.
If you are a celiac and your doctor told you that a gluten free diet is the only treatment there is for you, I have bad news for you. It has been proven by many separate studies that a gluten free diet will not restore the damage caused to your gut, even after years of being gluten free. I will talk about this on a separate post.