In recent years, gluten-free has become a buzzword with health-practitioners and social-media influencers alike. If you’re a health nut and want to watch your gluten intake, you’ll find this guide helpful. Being gluten-free has become trendy, inspiring an abundance of food choices and restaurants that cater to gluten-free alternatives. For many people, having a gluten-free diet is a necessity rather than a choice – and there are many hidden ingredients that they need to look out for, like those found in some powdered sugar brands.
Here’s the thing:
Natural sugar is gluten-free. But some powdered brands add starch that also contains gluten in it. Be careful when choosing a powdered sugar brand. While some brands have gluten-containing ingredients, we recommend Domino sugars because they’re gluten-free.
What is Powdered Sugar?
It is also known as icing sugar or confectioner’s sugar—powdered sugar results from a unique process that involves milling granulated sugar into a fine powder. Though often manufactured in a factory setting, powdered sugar can also be made at home using a mortar and pestle, a high-powered blender, or coffee grinder.
In the food industry, this ingredient is popular in foods needing quick-dissolving sugar; for home chefs, it’s most often used to make frosting or icing and other cake decorations. You can also dust powdered sugar on top of baked goods as decoration or add a subtle sweetness.
Is Sugar a Gluten-Free Food?
Some sugars are gluten-free, and some aren’t. Homemade powdered sugar made with granulated sugar and no additives is gluten-free. Professional bakers use an anti-caking agent to prevent lumps from forming and enhance the flow in commercial settings. These anti-caking agents often contain starches, which include gluten. Sometimes, the powdered sugar is made in a facility that also processes wheat – this leads to traces of gluten despite not being added to the product itself.
For people with severe food sensitivities, it is crucial to check the packaging. If the powdered sugar contains starch, make sure that it’s a cornstarch or tapioca starch, as these are gluten-free. To be certain, you can also purchase test strips that measure the amount of gluten in your food.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a part of a family of proteins present in cereal grains, including wheat, barley, spelt, and rye. It gives dough its elasticity and acts like glue, which clumps foods together and helps maintain their shape. Of gluten-containing foods, wheat is by far the most popular. Gluten is present in many kinds of food, and most people can tolerate it with no adverse effects.
However, it can cause problems for individuals with certain health conditions. They include celiac disease, wheat allergy, gluten sensitivity, and some other diseases.
Also spelled as coeliac disease, it is one of the most severe forms of gluten intolerance. It’s an autoimmune disorder that affects 1% of the population. The body may treat gluten as a foreign invader, so the immune system attacks the gut’s lining, damaging the gut wall and causing nutrient deficiencies, severe digestive issues, anemia, and an increased risk of several diseases.
The most common signs of coeliac disease include:
- Digestive discomfort
- Tissue damage in the small intestines
- Skin rashes
- Unexplained weight loss
- Foul-smelling feces
However, some individuals with celiac disease don’t experience digestive symptoms but have other symptoms, such as anemia or tiredness.
For this reason, doctors find it challenging to diagnose coeliac disease. One study suggests that 80% of people with this disease did not know they had it.
Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity
Many people do not test positive for the fatal celiac disease but may react negatively to gluten. This condition is called non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Researchers don’t know how many people experience this condition but estimate the range to be 0.5 to 13%.
Other symptoms of gluten sensitivity include:
- Stomach pain
There is no clear definition of non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Doctors make this diagnosis when a person reacts negatively to foods containing gluten, but they have ruled out allergies and celiac disease.
However, some experts don’t consider this as a legitimate condition. They believe that substances other than gluten can also cause these adverse effects.
Researchers studied people with self-diagnosed gluten intolerance and examined whether their condition improved on a gluten-free diet (13).
The results showed that only a few people had celiac disease, while some had a wheat allergy. Most people received a diagnosis for minor gluten sensitivity. Therefore, many people who believe they are gluten intolerant can develop symptoms due to other reasons.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common digestive disorders that cause symptoms, including:
- Abdominal pain
- Diarrhea or constipation or both
It is a severe condition, but many people manage their symptoms with diet, stress management techniques, and lifestyle changes.
Interestingly, studies show that some individuals with Irritable bowel syndrome benefit from a gluten-free diet.
For an estimated 0.1–1% of the population, wheat allergy may be causing severe digestive issues after consuming gluten.
Furthermore, studies suggest that a gluten-free diet can benefit some people with schizophrenia, autism, and a disease known as gluten ataxia.
Digestive discomfort is a common indication of minor gluten intolerance. The person can also have trouble gaining weight or anemia.
To rule out what is
causing such discomfort, people can
ask their doctor to check if they have celiac disease.
There are two ways to know if someone has celiac disease:
Blood Tests: Blood tests can screen for antibodies. The most common one is the tTG-IgA test. If that comes positive, the doctor can recommend a tissue biopsy to confirm the final results.
Biopsy From Small Intestine: A nurse takes a small tissue sample from your small intestine, and then a lab analyzes for damage.
If individuals think they may have celiac disease, they should immediately consult with a doctor before going on a gluten-free diet.
If the individual does not have this disease, the best way to figure out if they are sensitive is to follow a stringent gluten-free diet for weeks to see if the symptoms improve.
Then, they will need to introduce gluten back into their diet and notice if their symptoms return.
If the symptoms do not appear to improve on a gluten-free diet or worsen when they re-introduce foods containing gluten, then the culprit is something other than gluten.
The gluten-free diet test is not a fool-proof way to diagnose the issue. If a person suspects they have a problem, they should seek consultation from a healthcare provider and get tested for allergies or celiac disease.
Gluten in Different Foods
Many individuals believe that ingesting gluten in its various forms and the foods containing it, like pasta, bread, and breakfast cereals can cause intestinal discomfort. By avoiding these foods, they are can manage symptoms like upset stomach bloating and upset stomach, leading to a comfortable dining experience.
More significantly, some people have Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder. For them, eating gluten can cause their body to activate an immune system attack against the gut lining in the small intestine, which causes an incredible amount of damage. Those with Celiac disease must avoid food and drinks that have gluten. Exposure to these proteins can cause intense discomfort and can result in long-term damage.
How Can I Ensure There Isn’t Any Gluten In My Powdered Sugar?
Unfortunately, if you purchase your powdered sugar from a store, there is no surefire way to know if these proteins are evident. This causes problems if you’re using the sugar in baking for someone with gluten intolerance or celiac disease. Even the smallest amounts might trigger a reaction.
The best way to ensure that you eat gluten-free food is to make your own. Take granulated sugar and blend or grind with either a coffee grinder or a pestle and mortar until the sugar is the powder’s consistency. If you do not have confectioners’ sugar, you can use different varieties, such as Demerara or coconut, to grind to a fine texture. These may give your baking a different flavor, but it guarantees that these are gluten-free, especially if you are grinding sugar yourself at home.
Foods High In Gluten
The most common sources of gluten in your diet are:
- cakes, cookies, and pastries
Many processed foods also contain wheat. If you want to avoid gluten, you will have to read labels carefully.
Some people may find a gluten-free diet challenging at first. The first thing you have to do is read the labels on everything you eat.
Gluten is an ingredient found in a surprising number of foods.
People should eat healthy whole foods in this gluten-free diet, as most organic foods are naturally gluten-free. Avoid any processed food, grains, and cereals that contain gluten.
Here are a few grains and seeds that are gluten-free and also available to purchase online:
However, while oats are gluten-free, they may get contaminated by it. Therefore, it is safest only if you eat oats with a gluten-free label.
There are plenty of gluten-free, whole foods, including:
- fish and seafood
- dairy products
- fats, such as oils and butter
As a rule of thumb, it is best to choose organic, gluten-free food rather than processed products. These are low in nutrients and high in processed sugar or refined grains. You can buy natural sugar and grind it using a blender at home to ensure that it is gluten-free.