Should You Go Gluten-Free?

Gluten intolerance is on the rise, leading many people to consider a gluten-free diet. Gluten intolerance is the inability to process gluten, the complex protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Gluten intolerance can be caused by Celiac Disease, NCGS or gluten allergies.

Celiac Disease causes the celia (hair-like structures in the intestinal tract that aid in digestion) to stop functioning when gluten is present in the body. It is possible to test negative for Celiac Disease and still suffer from gluten sensitivity. This is referred to as Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, or NCGS. In cases of Celiac and NCGS, the small intestine suffers damage from gluten particles. Often this results in Leaky Gut Syndrome, which releases toxins into the body. Gluten allergies vary their effects on the body depending on the severity of the allergy.

Symptoms of gluten intolerance are wide spread and vary from person to person. Common symptoms include:
-Intestinal discomfort (bloating, cramping, diarrhea, constipation)
-loss of focus

Gluten intolerance is treated by abstaining from gluten. Some people with NCGS and gluten allergies can consume small amounts of gluten with no ill effects. Celiac Disease, however, requires complete abstinence from gluten.

Avoiding Gluten

Foods to avoid on a gluten-free diet include anything made from or processed with wheat, rye or barley. This includes: -cereals -cakes -cookies -bread -pasta

Gluten is used as an additive in many foods and has numerous names, it is recommended that you obtain a complete listing of ingredients that contain gluten and check food labels. Some foods that may contain gluten are: -processed foods -sausage -candy -condiments -bullion

Most restaurants provide allergy listings which include wheat products, but wheat free does not necessarily mean gluten-free. It is important to let your food preparer know about your sensitivity. In some cases of gluten intolerance, it can take as little as 0.1 mg of gluten to cause a reaction. It is important to keep gluten-free foods separate from foods containing gluten to avoid cross contamination.

Gluten-Free Foods

Though the list of foods that contain gluten is a long one, the list of gluten-free foods is even longer, and often healthier. Even if the brands you usually buy at the store do contain gluten, another brand may not. Fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables are gluten-free, as well as unprocessed meats and cheeses.

Rice and corn products can be substituted for many of the products you use. Some substitutions are:

-corn tortillas instead of flour

-corn flake crumbs instead of bread crumbs

-gluten-free all purpose flour

-corn or rice pasta

Consider the Benefits

A gluten-free diet can be a chance to make much needed changes in life. As well as alleviating symptoms of gluten intolerance, consider these added benefits:

-When a gluten intolerant person switches to a gluten-free diet, their intestines begin to heal, allowing them to absorb more nutrients and shed more toxins. With the body receiving better nutrition, people look and feel better.
-The prevalence of gluten containing foods makes it necessary to check labels before eating. Studies have shown that people who are aware of what they are eating make healthier choices and often weigh less.
-"Convenience" foods (i.e. fast food, T.V. dinners, snack foods) become less convenient with the necessity of checking labels. It becomes easier to snack on fruit and vegetables (no labels), or cook food at home to ensure that there is no cross contamination.
-Eating healthier results in increased energy which can be applied to any number of activities, creating a more productive and fulfilling lifestyle.