Gluten Intolerance: Living with a Wheat Allergy
Gluten Intolerance, or celiac disease, affects one out of every 133 people in the United States. People afflicted with this disease are unable to consume wheat, rye, barley or oats. Symptoms range from general abdominal discomfort to severe malnutrition. People afflicted with Celiac Disease are often misdiagnosed as having mild to moderate anemia and other gastrointestinal disorders. While diagnosis is difficult, awareness has been growing and more and more doctors are equipped with the appropriate testing supplies to test individuals suffering with these types of ailments. The only solution for an individual suffering from Celiac Disease is to maintain a completely gluten free diet, which can be far more difficult than it sounds.
Many items that would seem to be otherwise safe contain wheat gluten in them as wheat gluten is a common additive in preservatives. Items such as distilled vinegar, sour cream, mayonnaise, yogurt and even hot dogs may contain wheat gluten in them and therefore can cause discomfort. What is gluten?? Wheat gluten is a protein found in most cereals that creates the elasticity necessary to leavening. While many types of flowers can be used for baking, i.e. rice, potato and chickpea, these often produce dense or tough dough that is not suitable for baking bread or cakes.
While Celiac Disease is one of the most common forms of a wheat allergy, there are others. Most wheat allergies are not as common as other food allergies, namely peanut, dairy or seafood. However, they can be just as severe. Again, the most effective way of dealing with a wheat allergy is simply to avoid eating the foods that cause the reactions as anaphylactics do not help to avert the allergic reaction when these foods are consumed.
How to deal with cooking for individuals with Celiac Disease or other wheat allergies? It is simply a matter of reading the ingredients in common household items you use. One of the main culprits of allergic reactions in many foods is modified food starch. Look for products that are labeled “natural” or “certified organic.” Often these products are produced with little or no preservatives. Also, be careful of anything containing alcohol, including vanilla extract. Most alcohols are distilled with grains, most of which contain wheat glutens in them. Finding gluten free ingredients in stores is becoming easier and easier as more and more food manufacturers are becoming aware of the specifics of wheat allergies.
For those individuals following the South Beach Diet or other low carb diets, gluten free products can be a great indicator of foods that are naturally low in carbohydrates and starches. Eating gluten free doesn’t have to be boring or restrictive. It just requires a bit more creativity in the kitchen and the use of more flavor additives such as herbs and spices to liven things up. Below is a recipe for a gluten free chocolate cake. This flourless cake is delicious for both those with wheat allergies and those without. One final note: When eating out at restaurants, be careful to ask about items that specify they are “flourless.” Some restaurants label items, particularly desserts as “flourless,” when in fact they contain trace amounts of flour in them to bind the dessert. Even a trace amount can make the difference between a nice meal and a really bad stomach ache for someone suffering from Celiac Disease or a wheat allergy.
Flourless Chocolate Cake
Yields: Approx. 12 Servings
8 oz Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
¾ cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract (Organic)
1 tsp instant coffee
4 eggs, separated
Pinch of cream of tartar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 inch spring form pan. In a small saucepan filled ¼ full with water, bring to a boil. Place chocolate, butter, vanilla and coffee in a heat resistant mixing bowl and place over boiling water, reducing heat to low. Melt chocolate and butter completely. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks with half the sugar until the eggs become pale yellow and creamy. In another bowl, beat egg whites with cream of tartar, gradually adding remaining sugar until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold the cooled chocolate mixture into the egg yolk/sugar mixture, making sure not to scramble the eggs. Slowly fold the egg white mixture into the egg yolk/chocolate mix. Pour cake mixture into the spring form pan and place on a large baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake approx. 40 mins or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and run a knife around the edges of the cake. Allow to cool completely before removing from the spring form pan. Serve with whipping cream or vanilla ice cream.