RoBarr and Gluten: what you should know~
People have asked me about RoBarr and gluten. Many have made the choice to avoid gluten, even though they haven’t been diagnosed with celiac disease or a gluten allergy. Is it better for you to go gluten free, or continue to eat gluten? I think this question is best answered by experts, so I researched it, and here are the results of what I found.
“Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (wheatberries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, KAMUT® khorasan wheat and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together. Gluten can be found in many types of foods, even in ones that would not be expected.” 1
Specific Gluten types -
Gluten found in wheat flour, is formed by two proteins, called glutenin and gliadin. When they're moistened, the two proteins form long, stretchy chainlike molecules that give the dough a ropey and elastic texture. The scientific name for the gluten found in barley is hordein. Hordein is a protein that celiacs are sensitive to, but does not have exactly the same properties as glutenin and gliadin found in wheat flour. 2
The different enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) for gluten detection each have specific characteristics, but there are only a few systematic comparisons. A fundamental study compared the specificities and sensitivities of the R5, G12 and Skerritt monoclonal and two polyclonal antibodies to well-defined gluten protein types (GPT) isolated from wheat, rye and barley flours. Quantitation of protein concentrations provided independent reference values. The ELISA responses showed high variability depending on the type of cereal, the GPT and the antibody used. Overall, ω1,2-gliadins and γ-75k-secalins were most reactive, whereas ω5-gliadins and γ-, B- and D-hordeins were detected with the lowest sensitivities.3
In layman’s terms, this may mean that you may be sensitive to the gluten in wheat, but the gluten in barley is a different class of protein, and you might be less or not at all sensitive to barley gluten. Those who have issues with wheat only, may be perfectly fine enjoying a nice cup of RoBarr. Those diagnosed with celiacs disease, should refrain from drinking RoBarr. If even one kernel of barley bypasses your filter on your coffeemaker, there will be gluten in the beverage brewed.
Am I eating Healthier when Eating Gluten Free?
Many people believe they are eating healthier if they are eating gluten free. However, eating gluten free is really a diet for people who have a health condition that makes gluten hurt their gut like celiac disease. If that's not you, then giving up foods with gluten could cause you to fall short on nutrients like fiber and B vitamins. Dietary fiber helps lower LDL cholesterol, which helps prevent heart disease, and fiber helps promote digestive tract health. Vitamin B is linked to improved visuospatial and verbal semantic memory in adults. 4
It has become popular to eat a gluten free diet in the U.S. As many as 33% are eating a gluten free diet, because they perceive it to be a healthier option. Is this true? This doesn’t make much sense to Dr. Daniel A Leffler director of clinical research at the Celiac Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. “People who are sensitive to gluten may feel better, but a larger portion will derive no significant benefit from the practice. They’ll simply waste their money, because these products are expensive,” says Dr. Leffler, who is also an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. 5
If you’re determined to go gluten free, it’s important to know that fortified breads and cereals have become a major source of B vitamins in the United States. Although breads made with white rice, tapioca, and other gluten-free flours are becoming more common, they are generally not fortified with vitamins. This can be a problem for anyone, but it’s especially worrisome for women who are pregnant or may become pregnant. They need vitamin B9, more commonly known as folate or folic acid, to prevent birth defects. Taking a gluten-free multivitamin-multimineral supplement is a good idea for anyone trying to avoid gluten voluntarily. 3
Whole wheat is also a major source of dietary fiber, which the bowels need to work properly. “The average American diet is deficient in fiber,” says Dr. Leffler, “Take away whole wheat and the problem gets worse.” It’s possible to get the fiber you need from other grains, such as brown rice or quinoa, or from fruits, vegetables, and beans, but you’ll need to make the effort. 5
What is celiacs Disease ?
About 3 million Americans have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that’s triggered when they eat gluten. When someone with celiac disease eats gluten, their body overreacts to the protein and damages their villi, which are very small finger-like projections found along the wall of the small intestine. When the villi are injured, the small intestine can’t properly absorb nutrients from food. Eventually, this can lead to malnourishment, as well as loss of bone density, miscarriages, infertility -- even to the start of neurological diseases, or certain cancers. 6
People diagnosed with celiac disease should NOT drink RoBarr.
Non-celiac gluten or wheat sensitivity (NCG/WS) is a condition characterised by adverse gastrointestinal and/or extra-intestinal symptoms associated with the ingestion of gluten- or wheat-containing foods, in the absence of celiac disease or wheat allergy. Identification of NCG/WS is important as gluten-free diets carry risks, are socially restricting and are costlier than regular diets. Up to 1% of people may have celiac disease but many more report adverse gastrointestinal and/or extra-intestinal symptoms after eating wheat products. Only a small proportion (16%) will have reproducible symptoms after a blinded gluten challenge of gluten versus placebo in a crossover dietary trial and fulfil the current consensus criteria for a diagnosis of NCG/WS.7
Why isn’t barley used for making bread?
Gluten is what helps hold bread together when baking. Wheat is naturally higher in gluten than barley. Barley usually contains about 5% gluten (hordein), where most wheat flours start at 8.5% and can go as high as 14% gluten (gliadin and glutenin). The low level of gluten in barley is one of the reasons barley flour is seldom used for baking, although testing has been done to increase it’s popularity and it is found that barley flour can be mixed with wheat flour for good results when baking. Research has been done because of the underuse of barley as a part of human diet in the U.S. and it’s proven health benefits. 8
Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance
Some people can handle gluten just fine, while others have serious reactions to it. Still others have mild reactions, to a point where they might not know for sure if they are allergic to gluten, or if the problem is indicated by something else in their diet.
Gluten intolerance often shows up with warning signs, including diarrhea, flatulence, uncomfortable stools, weight loss, malnutrition, and gas problems. Long-term damage might go so far as intestinal scarring, problems with digestion and not enough nutrients in your body.8
Some people see subtle signs, most of which include inflammation and other issues that could always be attributed to something else. Some of these possible signs include aching joints, depression or anxiety, headaches, chronic fatigue, cramps, tingling and numbness, skin rashes, bad dental health, asthma and allergies, certain food cravings and infertility problems.
A definitive test for gluten intolerance can be done by testing your blood for certain antibodies. An intestinal biopsy can also be performed. However, these tests might be inconclusive. 9
Personal note: A few years ago I attended a conference of Montana Dietitians where the main speaker was the Canadian Expert on Celiacs disease and gluten intolerance, how to detect it, and what exactly it was. RoBarr is a very healthy tea made from roasted barley, but should not be used by people who suffer from celiacs disease. For most people, RoBarr improves your digestive health, but this does not apply to celiacs. For those with only a wheat allergy rather than celiacs, ingesting RoBarr may not cause you issues, because of the difference in proteins from barley vs. wheat.