Monthly Archives: July 2012

What does being sensitive to GLUTEN mean?

glutenWhen someone tells you that I am sensitive to Gluten and thus can not have wheat; do you look at him / her with shock and disbelief? Gluten though technically lesser known, helps us in our everyday cookery. It gives elasticity to the dough and helps in rolling it while making chappati.

Well, not just wheat, gluten is a protein which is also found in barley (jau), rye (rai) and oats (jai). People who are not able to digest gluten are said to be sensitive to gluten or said to be suffering with celiac disease or gluten enteropathy. The symptoms may range from diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, growth failure, anemia to inflammation (swelling with or without pain) of intestine.

Gluten intolerance / Celiac Disease is an auto-immune disorder which affects the small intestine and results in its damage. An autoimmune disorder is a condition that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue. Thus when a person suffering with Celiac Disease consumes food containing gluten it triggers same reaction and leads to above mentioned symptoms. Repeated consumption may lead to permanent damage making it difficult for body to absorb water and nutrients from foods. Complete abstinence from gluten containing foods in the daily diet helps in relieving these symptoms.

Several foods are considered acceptable for a gluten-free diet. The most frequently used are corn or maize (makka), potatoes, rice, amaranth (chaulai), arrowroot, sorghum (jowar), yam (jimikand), various types of beans, soybean, nut flours, buckwheat (kuttu), gram flour (besan). This diet rules out all ordinary breads, pastas, recipes including semolina (sooji), broken wheat (dalia), refined flour (maida) and many convenience foods. It also excludes gravies, custards, soups and sauces thickened with wheat, rye, barley, or other gluten-containing flour. Some non-foodstuffs such as medications and vitamin supplements, especially those in tablet form, may contain gluten as a binding agent. People wishing to follow a completely gluten free diet must thus take into consideration the ingredients of any over-the-counter or prescription medications and vitamins.

Special care is necessary when checking ingredient list since:

  1. Gluten might be present as: vegetable protein, vegetable starch, maltodextrin, dextrin or dextrose.
  2. Although many foods contain gluten, it is not always included in ingredients lists because gluten is not used in their formation. Instead gluten is used in the preparation of ingredients. E.g. flours are used to dust the conveyor belts to prevent foods from sticking during processing. This type of gluten contamination may not be labeled.
  3. Sausages may contain gluten via binders.
  4. Most forms of whiskey are made from grains that contain gluten but the processing removes all proteins present, including gluten. Though spirits like brandy, wine, sherry do not contain gluten, still liquors and pre-mixed drinks should be examined carefully for gluten derived ingredients.

The most important habit a person sensitive to gluten should develop is to read labels of all the processed foods before their consumption. Gluten usage is widespread and thus knowing of its usages might help in making gluten free diet a success.

Will be adding few recipe options and a ready reckoner of safe and unsafe foods for celiac patients soon.

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The Magic Healer

My mother developed Paronychia (a fungal or bacterial infection leading to redness, swelling and pus formation around the nail) in her right big toe nail just before my sister’s wedding. She was in so much pain that she could hardly move about leave aside doing any work. When my grandmother arrived and saw her state, she quickly plucked a leaf from a pot in the balcony, slit it halfway after heating and covered the toenail with it. Mom not only felt better but the infection also subsided in a few days.

Do you know what that magic plant was? It was Aloe vera.

Aloe vera also known as Aloe barbadensis, quargandal or ghrita kumari is a shrub which grows in dry areas of India, Africa, China and other dry places. There are around 300 known varieties of this plant but only few of them have medicinal properties. The plant is known worldover for its multifold benefits.

Benefits of Aloe Vera:

  • Digestive System: useful in acidity and related problems, ulcers, constipation. It has a soothing effect on digestive tract lining and also acts as laxative.
  • Heart: lowers cholesterol levels.
  • Diabetes: decreases blood sugar levels in diabetic patients.
  • For Women: considered one of the best medicines in Ayurveda, for female reproductive system.
  • Wound Healing: Aloe vera may be effective in treatment of wounds. Some studies have shown that it promotes the rate of healing in first and second degree burns.
  • Skin and Beauty: purifies blood, promotes healthy hair and provides natural glow to skin. Helps in skin conditions such as acne, pimples, allergy rashes (when applied as a cream), scalp problems, falling hair, dandruff etc. Stimulates production of collagen & elastin (proteins), which are necessary to prevent aging.
  • Other Benefits: Anti-cancer effects, enhances immune function.

It can be ingested as juice or gel, applied topically as a gel or an ingredient in creams, moisturizers, etc. Numerous research studies are underway to ascertain the mechanism of action or dosage to be taken for these above mentioned benefits.

Aloe vera also has an excellent nutritional profile. It is a mixture of more than 200 constituents, including amino acids,
enzymes, vitamins (A, B1, B6, B12, C, E & Folic acid), minerals (Calcium, Chromium, Copper, Magnesium, Manganese, Potassium, Sodium, Zinc), Hormones, etc.

Though this magic healer has shown its magic in healing Paronychia, we still need lots of studies to include Aloe vera as a medicine for serious ailments like cancer, ulcers, etc.

Let’s wait and watch!!!