gluten free diet

By Mary Frances Pickett


What is Gluten & What does “Gluten-Free” mean?

What is Gluten and “Gluten Free?”

Gluten is a form of protein typically occurring in the following grains: wheat, rye, triticale, barley, spelt and kamut. Bread baking is enhanced when using grains containing gluten because the protein found in gluten stretches the dough. When dough has sufficient elasticity, it has a greater capacity to rise.

People on Gluten-Free Diets Need to Avoid Gluten Derivatives

The Latin root of the word gluten, meaning glue, is spelled the same way as the English word. The gluten found in wheat is called gliadin. Secalin is the name of the gluten occurring in rye, while hordein is the name of the type of gluten found in barley. Bulgur wheat or couscous is a wheat product, so a person on a gluten-free diet should avoid eating this product.

Beware of Cross-Contamination Farming Methods

While oats do not actually contain any gluten, many farmers grow oat plants next to wheat plants. Consequently, some medical experts advise patients to eat certified, gluten-free oats instead of regular oatmeal. However, a person experiencing mild symptoms caused by gluten in the diet may wish to try eating regular oats to see if the grain causes negative reactions.

At first glance, giving up grains containing gluten may seem as though it is an impossible task, but following a gluten-free diet is easier than a person might imagine. When a person has been diagnosed with celiac disease by a physician, the only known cure is to go on a gluten-free diet.

Embarking on a Gluten-Free Diet is the Recommended Cure

While it is true that some doctors prescribe steroids to lessen inflammation in the intestinal tract, the treatment does not cure celiac disease. Consequently, people with celiac disease need to go on gluten-free diets if they wish to eliminate the typical symptoms associated with this chronic illness.

Here is a list of some of the common symptoms related to celiac disease:

  1. Pain in the abdomen
  2. Bloating in the abdomen
  3. Chronic digestive problems
  4. Sudden weight loss
  5. For women, the inability to get pregnant
  6. Tiredness related to anemia
  7. Hives
  8. Problems Breathing
  9. Pain in the joints
  10. Migraine headaches
  11. Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis Related to Gluten can Cause Death

Anaphylaxis is an extreme allergic reaction to various substances that include food and bee stings. In a severe gluten-related attack, a person can die because of an anaphylaxis reaction. This type of allergic sensitivity commonly causes symptoms that may include a rash that itches, swelling of the throat or low blood pressure levels.

While it is tempting to perform self-diagnosis, medical tests can help diagnose whether a person has celiac disease. A person who suspects that negative side-effects may relate to gluten sensitivity may want to visit a doctor for a medical diagnosis. A series of blood tests called immunoglobulin A or IgA, anti-tissue transglutaminase or tTGA, and IgA anti-endomysium antibodies or AEA can help a physician make a diagnosis. Blood tests measure autoantibody levels in the body. Unlike normal antibodies, autoantibodies do not go after foreign substances in a person’s blood stream.

An Autoantibody is not the Same as an Antibody

An autoantibody is a type of antibody that seeks to destroy a person’s healthy tissues. Autoantibody blood tests may indicate that the person does not have celiac disease. However, an individual who does not have high levels of autoanibodies may still have celiac disease. Consequently, a bowel biopsy is the best way to diagnose celiac disease because this type of test confirms, via tissue analysis, whether a person has celiac disease.

Some People May Want to Go on a Gluten-Free Diet Anyway

People do not always go to doctors for tests, especially when worried about whether they have celiac disease. A person may have a wheat intolerance, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, even though the individual does not have celiac disease. If a person has a strong suspicion that a gluten-free diet is the answer for providing relief from gluten-related side-effects, gluten-free foods are readily available in grocery stores and health food stores.

Food Does Not Necessarily Need to Have a Gluten-Free Label

The main reason to look for gluten-free labels is to determine whether the food products contain gluten. A bag of brown or white rice does not need to have a gluten-free label because rice does not contain any gluten, nor is rice a cross-contaminated food during the growing process. However, a box of pancake mix that does not explicitly state it is gluten-free requires careful scrutiny.

Know Which Foods Contain Gluten Before Buying Packaged Foods

First, know which types of food contain gluten, then read all the ingredients on the label. Question food products or additives that sound as though they may contain gluten. Playing a guessing game is not a good option for those who suffer dramatic symptoms related to celiac disease. For these individuals, the best practice is to buy products that state they are gluten-free. Besides the basic grains previously mentioned, here are a few additional foods that contain gluten:

1. Hydrolyzed wheat protein or glutamine peptides

Check the label on a can of whey protein powder because if it contains hydrolyzed wheat protein or glutamine peptides, the product contains gluten.

2. Beer

Beer typically derives from malted barley. Since barley is a grain to avoid when on a gluten-free diet, people who want to drink beer should look for gluten-free labels. Even if the label states that the beer is gluten-free, question the manufacturer if malted barley is listed as an ingredient.

3. Soy sauce

Consumers may think that soy sauce is a gluten-free food because soybeans do not contain gluten. However, many soy sauce brands also contain large percentages of wheat. Either buy soy sauce that does not list wheat as an ingredient or purchase a product with a gluten-free label.

4. Veggie burgers

If the veggie burger contains any of the grains that have significant amounts of gluten, the burger is not a gluten-free food. Look for veggie burgers that do not contain any grains.

5. Modified food starch

Modified food starch contains gluten if it is derived from wheat. Contact the manufacturer to find out the source.

Foods that Do Not Contain Any Gluten

People who have celiac-related allergies or simply want to go on gluten-free diets can eat many types of healthy food. Instead of loading up on wheat, rye or barley products containing gluten, eat:

1. Fresh fruit

Apples, grapes, strawberries and cherries contain beneficial antioxidants and fiber. A healthy diet free from gluten includes fresh fruit.

2. Fresh vegetables

Eat broccoli, cauliflower, raw spinach salads, tomatoes, carrots, celery, garlic and onions for good health. Vegetables do not contain gluten. Fresh potatoes and corn-on-the-cob are gluten-free foods. Read labels carefully on salad dressing. Avoid buying products containing questionable ingredients.

3. Eggs

Eggs do not contain any gluten. A gluten-free diet includes eggs and sausage or bacon for breakfast along with a slice of toast made with brown rice flour.

4. Meat

Meat, chicken and fish do not contain gluten. Vegetarians can eat lentils, chick peas, red beans and other legumes in place of hamburgers and salmon patties.

5. Nuts and Seeds

Indulge in unadulterated almonds, walnuts, pecans or sunflower seeds. Current scientific research indicates that eating approximately one ounce of nuts per day can help prevent heart disease. Buy nuts with 50 percent less salt or no salt, and make sure the nuts do not have processed ingredients that may contain gluten.

6. Dairy products

Milk, yogurt and cheese do not contain gluten. People who do not have lactose-intolerance issues can eat natural, gluten-free dairy products.

Celiac Disease is an Inherited Autoimmune Disorder

People diagnosed with celiac disease typically inherit the disorder from their parents. Classified as an autoimmune disease, the small intestine is typically affected. A person who is intolerant to wheat, as opposed to an individual with full-blown celiac disease, may only experience negative symptoms for a limited period. Nevertheless, those who wish to avoid any adverse reactions need to embrace a gluten-free diet.

Research shows that approximately 1 out of every 133 persons living in developed countries is intolerant to gluten. People who discover that some of their chronic symptoms are due to gluten need to go on gluten-free diets if they want to find relief. Vegans need to pay careful attention to meat substitutes because many non-animal meats contain gluten even though the label may not list the actual word gluten as an ingredient.

Take Vitamin Supplements When Living a Gluten-Free Lifestyle

In addition to gaining more knowledge about gluten-free ingredients, vegans and those on gluten-free diets need to take vitamin supplements. Some vitamins, including vegan and vegetarian formulas, contain derivatives of wheat or other grains containing gluten. What is Gluten & What does ‘Gluten-Free’ mean? It means that a person’s body cannot tolerate gluten and that the individual needs to embrace a new lifestyle that includes a gluten-free diet.



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