What Is… Gluten? What Is… Dairy?
What is gluten?
Gluten is a group of natural-made proteins found in grains such as wheat, rye, spelt and barley. When mixed with water, the gluten proteins form a sticky substance that allows dough to rise, and provides the chewy texture you recognise in bread. When dry, it has the consistency of cornflour; but when wet, it is stringy and chewy and more like chewing gum
Gluten has two main properties to it, these are called gliadin and glutelin, and it is the gliadin that causes the majority of the issues for us. Gluten is considered a ‘storage protein’, that allows the wheat, rye, spelt and barley to continue multiplying (or rising, as in bread dough).
It is believed that 1 in 10 people in New Zealand are gluten intolerant; and Coeliac New Zealand estimate that 60,000 to 70,000 people in New Zealand are affected by coeliac disease, and upwards of 80% of these people aren’t even aware they have it.
Coeliac Disease is an actual allergy to gluten, not just an intolerance. It is an autoimmune disease that causes severe effects on the gut, and it’s ability to absorb nutrients.
What is dairy?
Wikipedia describes dairy products in this way ‘Dairy products or milk products are a type of food produced from or containing the milk of mammals. They are primarily produced from mammals such as cattle, water buffaloes, goats, sheep, camels and humans.’
In this instance, and for our website ‘HappyTummy…’, dairy products will be referred to as products made specifically from cows milk, not any other mammal.
As New Zealanders, we are very high consumers of dairy, and are very aware of what products consist of dairy; below is a quick list of the main products produced using dairy, and available locally:
– Ice cream
The words dairy and lactose are often intertwined, but what is lactose? Lactose is the sugar found in dairy, and is made up of two smaller sugar proteins; glucose and galactose. In order for lactose to be absorbed into the body, it must be split into glucose and galactose, by an enzyme called lactase.
Like with gluten, there is a difference between an actual allergy, and an intolerance.
A dairy/lactose allergy is an auto-immune reaction to the sugar protein within the dairy, it is generally young children who are effected, but they most often outgrow it by the time they reach 6 years old.
An intolerance to lactose/dairy is not an allergic reaction, but the body’s response to a lack of the enzyme lactase, that helps break down the lactose or milk sugar.
I will go deeper into the differences between an intolerance and an allergy in the next post.