Some people become sick when they consume the elastic protein in wheat, barley and rye called gluten. This condition, called celiac disease, causes a multitude of symptoms including gastrointestinal upset, rashes and brain fog, and can be linked to other diseases such as cancer, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Celiac sufferers must avoid all gluten for the rest of their lives. Wheatgrass grows from the seed of wheat, so it would seem like something celiacs should avoid. However, because it is a young version of the plant, the grass itself does not contain gluten.
What Is Wheat Grass?
Used primarily as a nutritional supplement, wheat grass is a variety of grass in the same family as wheat, barley and rye. You can find it in juice bars and health food stores, growing in trays from sprouted wheatberries. Proponents of its nutritional prowess believe it must be cut fresh and juiced immediately to provide benefit. Capsules and dehydrated powder forms of wheatgrass are also available.
Benefits of Wheat Grass
Anne Wigmore first introduced the idea of using wheat grass as a nutritional supplement. She observed cats and dogs eating grass and theorized that humans too could also benefit. The supposed benefits of wheatgrass are due to its very high chlorophyll content. Claims exist that wheatgrass positively affects almost all organs and systems of the body---particularly liver, thyroid and cardiovascular health. Wheatgrass drinkers maintain it increases your metabolism and suppress the appetite. Some even believe that wheatgrass can heal and prevent cancer. The Food and Drug Administration treats wheatgrass as a supplement and does not support any of these claims. No credible studies that support these claims have been conducted.
No Gluten in Grass
Because wheatgrass is young, it has not yet formed the proteins that trigger celiac symptoms. The concern with wheatgrass surrounds its possible contamination with sprouted wheat or the seed. If you consume wheatgrass juice at an establishment where you can watch it being cut and processed, you can be pretty sure contamination has not occured. You must look carefully to make sure the wheatgrass juice contains no sprouts and that the equipment used has not come into contact with any gluten-containing products.
If you suffer from celiac disease, be aware that packaged products containing wheatgrass could very well contain gluten due to cross-contamination. Seeds and wheat traces may be present when manufacturers harvest and process the wheatgrass. You cannot be certain of the purity of products, particularly in dehydrated forms. For this reason, it is probably best to avoid them altogether.
If your doctor diagnosed you with celiac disease, it makes sense to avoid wheatgrass. The health benefits of it have not been firmly established, and if you are unlucky enough to get a cross-contaminated wheatgrass shot, you are sure to suffer health consequences. If you are still committed to wheatgrass as a supplement, use careful observation when the server prepares your juice and avoid packaged products containing wheatgrass.
- Living Gluten Free for Dummies, Danna Korn, 2006
- Hippocrates Institute
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