Read full article by Pavithra Krishna Kumar@ FirstPost Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Gluten is a bunch of proteins commonly found in wheat, rye and barley where it acts as a “glue”, giving foods the stretch, the structure and the bite.
“Celiac Disease”, have we heard of this before? Maybe. “Gluten”, “Gluten-Free”, and “Gluten Allergy”- yes, we have heard of these more frequently on social media, food labels and advertisements. Let us thoroughly understand what gluten is? Why is it a big deal? And, what is the solution for it?
Let us understand GLUTEN
Gluten is a bunch of proteins commonly found in wheat, rye and barley where it acts as a “glue”, giving foods the stretch, the structure and the bite. Gluten helps in having longer shelf stability (your biscuits will not crumble before they expire) and better dough rising (your cakes will be more spongy). While gluten enters the Indian diet via bread, cakes, biscuits and roti (through wheat)- it can also step into our favourite beer, through the barley. Whether we realise it or not, we have consumed some amount of gluten in our lives.
What is the big deal about gluten?
For some gluten does not break down in the body easily. This could lead to issues in the intestine that is collectively known as “Gluten intolerance” – symptoms may vary, with some of them unnoticed, or mildly ignored as “just a case of indigestion” and so on.
Gluten intolerance can include a mild sensitivity to consuming products with gluten, with symptoms like feeling tired and having a headache. The severity of a wheat allergy is higher, leading to nausea and difficulty in breathing. Wheat allergies involve the immune system and could weaken the body if left untreated.
The highest form of gluten intolerance is Celiac Disease. There are two genes responsible for Celiac Disease and when these genes are present in a person, there is a high risk of developing Celiac Disease. At any age and time point in life, these genes may get triggered by gluten consumption. This leads to the onset of Celiac Disease. Symptoms can vary from vomiting and weight loss to arthritis and migraines, all leading to severe intestine damage.
How can millets help?
Regardless of the severity of gluten intolerance, dietary intervention is a sure solution. Millets are small cereal grains that are naturally gluten-free. They are also a nutrition powerhouse, being high in fibre, protein, calcium, and antioxidants. They have a tough outer skin, leading to being drought and pest resistant. What’s more? They are naturally gifted to survive in harsh environments- due to their small size and hardness. To sum it up, they are good for your body and the planet. In India, each region is endowed with millets- some of them are better known by regional names. For example, Ragi (Finger millet/Nachni) is native to Karnataka; Jowar (Sorghum) is native to Maharashtra, Bajra (Pearl millet) is well known in Rajasthan. Rajgira (Amaranth) is a well-known food consumed during traditional/religious fasting in North India, while Tamil Nadu is endowed with Kodo millet, Samai (Little millet) and Proso millet.