Gluten is a part
of the protein found in wheat, and to a lesser extent in rye, barley
and oats. Gluten is largely responsible for the ability of wheat flour
to form 'elastic' batters and doughs. Without gluten in flour it would
not be possible to produce light-baked products or the well-risen breads
that are characteristic of wheat flour.
There are some
people who have a condition in which the lining of the intestine is
damaged by gluten; this is known as coeliac disease. This damage inter
feres with the normal absorption of nutrients from digested foods and
can lead to an illness that resembles general malnutrition.
is controlled by excluding gluten from the diet. This means avoiding
foods containing wheat, rye, and barley. The position of oats is controversial
but some people who suffer from coeliac disease also have a sensitivity
to oats. If you have coeliac disease you must strictly adhere to the
gluten-free diet, and it is usually necessary to continue for life.
Good dietary guidance is essential, as wheat flour is 'hidden' in many
convenience foods, in which it is used as a filler. There are gluten-free
goods available, as well as specially prepared gluten-free products,
such as bread, biscuits and cake.
For specific food
advice, check with your doctor, dietitian or local Coeliac Society.
In Australia, the Commonwealth Department of Health has compiled a Dietary
Guide for the Treatment of Coeliac Disease, which is available from
Australian Government bookshops.
for gluten-free foods are shown in Figure
65. (Other foods labelled 'gluten-free' may also be used.)
65: GUIDELINES FOR A GLUTEN-FREE DIET