Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, malts and triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye). It is frequently used as a food additive in the form of a flavoring, stabilizing or thickening agent, often as “dextrin”. A gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes foods containing gluten and is commonly recommended for people with wheat allergies, and is the only medically accepted treatment for celiac disease (or coeliac disease, a chronic digestive disorder found in individuals who experience a toxic immune response when they ingest gluten). Additionally, a gluten-free diet may exclude oats. The suitability of oats in the gluten-free diet is still somewhat controversial. Some research suggests that oats in themselves are gluten free, but that they are virtually always contaminated by other grains during distribution or processing.
Detection of gluten in food products can be tricky, as many foods contain gluten, but it is not always included in the ingredients lists. This lack of inclusion is because gluten is not used in the formulation of the product, but in the preparation (or manufacturing) of listed ingredients. One example is the dusting of the conveyor belts in the production facilities with gluten products to prevent the foods from sticking during processing. “Natural Flavoring” is also suspected to contain gluten. These types of gluten contamination may not be labeled and information confirming whether this form of gluten is present in a given product may only be available by contacting the food manufacturer directly to learn why Doctors are readjusting their estimates of who could benefit from maintaining a gluten free diet.