Walking through the supermarket aisles, you may have noticed an increasing number of products labeled “gluten-free.” So what is gluten and why would you want to cut it out of your diet?
Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, barley and possibly oats. Many types of pasta’s, breads, cereals and other foods contain gluten. For the general population, foods with gluten are well tolerated and can be included as part of a healthy diet. For those with Celiac Disease however, following a gluten-free diet is a must.
Celiac Disease is a condition in which eating foods with gluten triggers an immune response in the body that causes damage to the lining of the small intestines. This damage affects the ability to properly absorb important nutrients from food, which can lead to malnutrition. Celiac disease can develop at any age and the exact cause is unknown. There is no cure, however following a life-long gluten-free diet will allow the intestines to heal and prevent further damage. Symptoms of Celiac disease may include weakness, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, bloating, weight loss or others.
In addition to Celiac disease, there is evidence that some people may experience gluten intolerance or sensitivity. There is currently no test to diagnose this condition and reported symptoms vary widely. Those who suspect they are sensitive to gluten may benefit from following a gluten-free diet, though unlike those with Celiac disease, those with gluten sensitivity may be able to tolerate some gluten containing foods.
If you suspect you have Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity, it is important to consult with your physician to get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
For those following a gluten-free diet, the American Dietetic Association provides the following recommendations:
- Consult a registered dietitian who can help you learn how to live with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
- Use grains and other starchy foods that don’t contain gluten such as: amaranth, arrowroot, beans, buckwheat, corn, garfava, millet, Montina, nut flours, potato, quinoa, rice, sorghum, soy, tapioca and tef
- When grocery shopping, look for gluten-free grains, flour and food products. Today more gluten-free food products are available than ever before.
- Read food labels carefully. Many commercially prepared foods have gluten-containing ingredients. Some that may be a problem include flavored and frozen yogurt, rice crackers, deli meats, egg substitutes, French fries, salad dressings, pudding mixes, tortilla chips and even Worcestershire sauce.
- Eating away from home? Pack gluten-free foods. Read restaurant menus carefully, and ask questions. If you’re a guest in someone’s home, tell them about your special food needs in advance, and offer to bring food.
For a delicious gluten-free recipe, try Gluten Free Rice Pudding.
Please note: The information provided here is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any particular illness or condition, nor is it intended to support any particular product or service. You should always consult your healthcare provider prior to making any changes to your healthcare routine.