You’ve probably heard these words a lot now a days. But what does going Gluten Free mean? Why the sudden surge in this subject? Going gluten free is to treat celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease activated by gluten, along with wheat allergies, and non celiac gluten sensitivity. I don’t pretend to be a physician, nor an expert on celiac disease or other gluten intolerance. I am new to the gluten free subject matter all together. I am not gluten intolerant, nor do I have celiac disease but I know people who are do. I was aware gluten was found in wheat. But I never connected to dots that gluten is also found in barley, rye, and a whole list of other things.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein composite found in wheat and other related grains like spelt, kamut and triticale, and including barley and rye. Just remember any foods processed from these grains will contain gluten as well. Gluten derives from Latin and it means “glue”. Gluten is what gives dough its elasticity. Gluten helps it rise and to keep its shape. It also gives the final product that “chewy” texture. Gluten is also used as a thickener. You can find gluten in salad dressings, mayo, gravies, soups and broths. You can find gluten is some pretty surprising places. It makes yogurt smoother and creamier. You can also find gluten in the stuff to seal envelopes. It acts as a stabilizer. Told ya surprising places. For vegetarians and vegans, who may not receive enough protein in their diet, gluten is put into protein supplements and meal substitutes such as seitan.
What is Gluten Intolerance?
- Wheat Allergy
- Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity
- Celiac disease
Each one of these are difficult to diagnose. Most people are unaware that their gluten intolerance may be the cause of other health issues. Many forms of gluten intolerance can cause the body to produce an abnormal immune response with the presence of wheat or its proteins. Having a wheat allergy can cause you to have hives, difficulty breathing, and/or digestive problems. In some serious situations someone with this allergy can experience anaphylaxis. Celiac disease can cause damage and inflammation in the small intestines forcing people to suffer from bloating, fatigue, headaches, and weight loss. This happens because the body can’t obtain all of the nutrients from food it needs.
Celiac disease is called an autoimmune disease, in that when a person with celiac disease consumes gluten, the immune system attacks its own body. It causes inflammation and damages the lining of the small intestine. Since most of our nutrients are absorbed in the small intestine, one with celiac disease is less able to absorb nutrients from food. Additionally, this damage to the small intestine can also cause leaky gut syndrome, and fragments of proteins and toxins that should remain in the small intestine, now pass through the intestinal wall to the bloodstream.
What does it mean to be “Gluten Free”?
Eliminating all sources of gluten from the diet can be a completely deflating experience. To someone just diagnosed as gluten intolerant, it might seem like the end of the world as they know it. Giving up pizza, bread, cookies, beer is there still life after that?
Starting on a gluten free diet, you must make certain to attain enough fiber, folate, iron, niacin, riboflavin, selenium and thiamine; often lacking in a gluten free diet. Additionally it is important to not fill up on too many simple carbohydrates. Too many refined flours like white rice flour would not be a healthy start.
Read Food Labels
Reading food labels is an absolute must, but even reading labels with utmost care will not always give the answers one needs. Labels are confusing. Different countries label differently. The US FDA allows 4 times the accepted amount of gluten to be considered “gluten free” as Australia; a large difference. And then, gluten or wheat is in so many products you would never have thought. Who knew that licking an envelope might trigger an attack?
Foods to Avoid
It is easy to understand that wheat must be eliminated from the diet, but wheat is hidden behind a lot of other titles, such as bulgur, durum flour, farina, graham flour, kamut, semolina and spelt. Geez!
Things to avoid unless they are specifically labeled “Gluten Free”, or made with corn, rice, soy or other gluten free grain: Beer (generally made with wheat or barley), breads, cakes & pies, candies, cereals, cookies & crackers, croutons, french fries (commercial), gravies, imitation meat or seafood, matzo, pastas, processed lunch meats, salad dressings, sauces (including soy sauce), seasoned rice mixes, seasoned snack foods (such as potato chips and tortilla chips), self basting poultry, soups and soup bases, vegetables in sauce.
Oats are controversial. Very often oats are grown in a field next to a field planted with wheat. There is enough contamination there to cause severe reactions in some people. Also oats and wheat are often processed in the same facilities. Most doctors recommend avoiding oats entirely, unless they are labeled specifically “gluten free.”
Cross contamination occurs when gluten free foods come in contact with foods containing gluten. This can occur so easily and in unthought-of ways just in the home. Wooden cutting boards or utensils that have been used with a gluten containing food must not be used when preparing something gluten free. Using a toaster that has been used for wheat breads is a major source of contamination. Any non wooden utensils must be thoroughly cleansed before using to prepare a gluten free food. If you use wheat flour in a recipe, it can take up to 24 hours for the wheat dust particles in the air to completely settle. Or, using butter that someone else has swiped to butter a slice of wheat bread, leaving behind traces of that bread.
Cross contamination occurs in processing facilities when gluten free foods come in contact with foods containing gluten, such as when using the same equipment to make a variety of products. Some foods are labeled “may contain” but understand that this labeling is voluntary. Check the ingredient list. If you aren’t sure if a food contains gluten, either don’t buy it, or call the manufacturer to ask what it contains.
Gluten Free Now What?
When initially eliminating all the gluten filled products from the diet, one can experience mild to severe withdrawal symptoms. Gluten’s complex proteins trigger the body to manufacture chemicals similar to endorphins, producing a calm and relaxed feeling. Just as when an opiate consumption is stopped, one can experience a degree of withdrawal from gluten. This withdrawal can cause irritability and intense cravings. Additionally, as the body heals during the first week or so of going gluten free other possible side effects could be things like hives, mild rashes or headaches. This is because the body, and particularly the liver, as it is in the process of detox, can suddenly better process and eliminate toxins. Understand this is a process, and will pass.
Switching to a gluten free diet is a huge change, and as with anything new it requires getting used to all these new concepts. While one may initially feel deprived by all the restrictions, it may come as a pleasant surprise to find how many gluten free products are available. Many grocery stores or specialty stores these days have a section of gluten free products, such as breads, pastas and crackers. If they are not available in your area, check with a celiac support group or go online.
Above all, stay positive. There is so much being done in make a lot of food gluten free.
>>> Again we are not experts on Celiac Disease or any Gluten Intolerance. However we know what our friends go through so we feel its important to offer what we learn from research and what we learn from our friends. Help us expand this category on our site. Comment below if you are living a gluten free live and offer any advice you may have to our readers. Thank you for your cooperation. Who knows we could create a nice gluten free community on this site.<<<