Cereal grains belong to the Gramineae family. The closer a grain's taxonomic (classification) relationship to wheat, the grain with the highest gluten content, the greater its ability to activate celiac disease. Gluten is composed of gliadins and glutenins. Only the gliadin portion has been demonstrated to activate celiac disease. In the gluten-containing grains, the proteins that appear to activate the disease are termed secalins, hordeins, and avenins individually, and prolamines collectively. Rice and corn, two grains that do not appear to activate celiac disease, contain very little gliadin.
Once the diagnosis of celiac disease has been established, a gluten-free diet is indicated. This diet does not contain any wheat, rye, barley, triticale, spelt, kamut, or oats. Buckwheat and millet are often excluded as well. Although buckwheat is not in the grass family and millet appears to be more closely related to rice and corn, they do contain prolamines that are similar to the alpha-gliadin of wheat. After a gluten-free diet is started, improvement for most people will be apparent within a few days or weeks. individuals respond only after twenty-four to thirty-six months of avoiding gluten.
Maintenance of a strictly gluten-free diet is quite difficult in the United States, due to the wide distribution of gliadin in processed foods. Individuals with celiac disease must be encouraged to read labels carefully in order to avoid hidden sources of gliadin, such as gluten-containing grains found in some brands of soy sauce-tamari is wheat-free, while shoyu contains wheat; modified food starch; ice cream; soups; and alcohol, such as beer, wine, vodka, whiskey, and malt. Many gluten-free products are available in natural food stores and online catalogs.
The absence of gluten in sorghum, combined with its excellent nutritional and phytochemical profile, make this grain a contender in the market for those with celiac sprue disease. Other beneficial grains for replacement of gluten-containing grains include amaranth, quinoa, and a variety of rices, such as brown, red, black, and wild.
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