Gluten Sensitivity

gluten-sensitivityIt’s been 8 months since I went “Wheat Free.”  I gave up wheat to see if I could resolve my stomach pain issues. Giving up wheat also included giving up Gluten because Gluten is wheat’s natural protein. I read the book Wheat Belly, and although I didn’t agree with everything in the book, I had nothing to lose going wheat free, In fact, there were many benefits. ( I didn’t go out of my way to avoid things that contain trace amounts of wheat, soy sauce, or other sauces thickened with flour).  Since that day I have had NO digestive problems, got rid of my tummy, all menopausal symptoms are gone, no cravings for sweets, I sleep better, and I lost 10lbs. My diet is better, but boy do I miss some foods.

Chatting with my brother one day on Facebook, I found out that he changed his diet a few years ago. I remember him in his 30’s “popping Tums”  I always knew that our family had digestive problems, it was the initial cause of my Dad dying at 62! My brother said he didn’t give up wheat, but he just didn’t eat bread anymore, but he still eats cakes, and cookies.That has stuck with me for the past few months, and I started really thinking about the foods that used to upset my digestive system. They were foods like pizza, crusty breads, home-made pasta. Foods like biscuits, cookies, cakes, and fried foods never bothered me (although they are foods that are  not good for you anyway).

I am beginning to believe that my body is sensitive to gluten. I read a great article Gluten – 5 Things you need to know and I realized that I don’t necessarily need to have a completely gluten-free or completely wheat free lifestyle. I just need to stay away from those foods that effect my digestive system. Be careful of Gluten free products. Gluten free foods are generally made with ingredients such as rice, corn, potatoes, sorghum, tapioca and millet, which are higher in carbohydrates and lower in protein and other nutrients than wheat flour. The typical gluten-free ingredients that are used in place of wheat are less nutritious than wheat itself.

So based on all this information, and my food intolerance history, I started to do some research on Gluten, and the types of flours used in certain foods. Wheat flour is the most common flour used in baking. There are different types of wheat flour, and they’re distinguished by the amount of gluten they contain.

Gluten is the wheat’s natural protein, and it’s what gives baked goods their structure. When dough is kneaded, these glutens develop and become firm. Flours made from hard, high-protein varieties of wheat are called strong flours. They have a higher gluten content. Flours made from softer, low-protein wheats are called weak flours, and are lower in gluten. Those breads that effect my stomach are high in gluten. Stretchy dough used to make pizza, rolls, bagels, crusty breads like, Italian and french breads. These are the breads I need to avoid. Listed below are several types of flours and their baking uses. This information helped me to understand the gluten content in baked goods. I’ve finally learned where I fit into the gluten sensitivity spectrum! I will continue to stay away from high gluten content foods like breads, and pastas. I won’t feel so bad justifying a cookie once in a while.
All-Purpose Flour:
All-purpose flour is formulated to have a medium gluten content of around 12 percent or so. This makes it a good middle-of-the-road flour that can be used for a whole range of baking, from crusty breads to fine cakes and pastries. Even so, most professional bakers don’t use all-purpose flour but instead use either bread flour, cake flour or pastry flour, depending on what they are baking.
Bread Flour:
Bread flour is a strong flour, meaning that it has a relatively high gluten content — usually around 13 to 14 percent. A handful of bread flour will feel coarse and will look slightly off-white. Bread flour is used for making crusty breads and rolls, pizza doughs and similar products.
Cake Flour:
Cake flour is made from soft wheat and has a lower gluten content — around 7½ to 9 percent. Its grains are visibly finer than bread flour, and it is much whiter in color. Its fine, soft texture makes it preferable for tender cakes and pastries.
Pastry Flour:
Pastry flour is slightly stronger than cake flour, at around 9 to 10 percent gluten. It can be used for biscuits, muffins, cookies, pie doughs and softer yeast doughs. It has a slightly more off-white color than cake flour.

(Courtesy of  About.com   Photo courtesy of  Going Against the Grain by Melissa Smith)

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