Where gluten is found and what gluten is used for
Gluten is a protein that occurs naturally in wheat, barley, rye and some other cereal grains. These grains have been part of the human diet for thousands of years. Gluten helps bread dough to rise, and improves the texture of bread and other grain products such as pasta, noodles, biscuits, breakfast cereal and many others.
Gluten is also hidden in many other food ingredients, even if they’re not made from cereals that naturally contain this protein. Products that commonly contain hidden gluten include sauces, marinades, gravies, processed meats, vegetarian meat alternatives, and spices. Other sources of hidden gluten include products manufactured on equipment that also processes gluten-containing foods, and certain ingredients used to produce dietary supplements.
The wide spectrum of gluten sensitivities
Approximately 1 in 13 individuals suffer from some form of gluten sensitivity, resulting in many millions of people being affected worldwide. While the problem appears to be more common in people from European backgrounds, gluten sensitivity is also found in South Asia, the Middle East and some parts of Africa. People of all ages can be affected, and women are more likely than men to report being sensitive to gluten.
The symptoms of gluten sensitivities range from mild digestive problems to seriously debilitating cramps, bloating, diarrhoea, fatigue, headaches to skin eczema and rashes. Not surprisingly, people who have gluten sensitivity typically experience lower quality of life.
When food is eaten that contains gluten, the body’s pancreatic enzymes (pepsin and trypsin), which are found in the stomach and small intestine respectively, cannot fully digest the gluten. They can only partly break it down, leaving smaller sections called ‘peptides’. Unfortunately, these smaller peptides cause problems for people who are on the spectrum of gluten-sensitivity. The peptides may be directly toxic for intestinal cells, or provoke an autoimmune response that leads to inflammation and bloating, and eventually to intestinal damage.
Australian scientist Professor Hugh Cornell and his colleagues studied gluten for many years. They showed how gluten is made up of complex peptides that can affect individuals on the spectrum of gluten sensitivities. This important research was followed by the discovery that a very specific enzyme, caricain which is derived from the papaya plant, had strong digestive properties.
Caricain is a natural enzyme
The milky sap or latex from the unripe papaya fruit contains several unique protein-digesting enzymes, including papain, chymopapain, QCT and caricain. These enzymes are the reason papaya latex was traditionally used to tenderise meat, and why it’s now used in the production of beer, degum natural silk, and in the production of chewing gums