A Guide To Gluten-Free Diet
The gluten-free diet is becoming more and more popular for those who want to reduce their risk of developing the celiac disease or an intolerance. And many more people who tolerate gluten are also seeking a gluten-free diet. Should they?
This rise in popularity has led many restaurants and cafes to offer gluten-free menus with a wide variety of dishes that will satisfy your taste buds without the need for compromise.
In this guide, we'll tell you everything you need to know about following a gluten-free diet from A to Z. Staring with who should follow a gluten-free diet and what are its benefits to those who technically don't need it.
This also includes when eating out while following a gluten-free diet, whether at family gatherings or dinner at a friend's house or in traditional restaurants and cafes.
We'll also discuss common sources of gluten in your diet if you're sensitive or intolerant to this gluten protein found in many grains such as wheat, barley, rye, and spelt.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and spelt.
It's the protein that gives bread its elasticity and makes it chewy instead of crumbly. Gluten can also be found in many other foods such as pasta, oats, and even soy sauce--one of the most surprising sources of gluten!
It's important to know what products contain gluten because if you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), then eating them could make you sick and this sickness varies between mere discomfort to life-threatening illness.
Who Should Consider a Gluten-free Diet
People With Celiac Disease
We mention this one a lot. It's by far the most important condition that you shouldn't touch anything with gluten if you have it!
In this autoimmune disorder, gluten sparks activity from the immunity system that damages the internal lining of the small intestine. This can have life-threatening effects as it affects the absorption of nutrients from food overall.
In this case, you absolutely must follow a strict gluten-free diet.
People With Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity
Other than celiac disease, some people show symptoms similar to it when they consume gluten, yet there are no signs of damage to the small intestine.
In this case, you'll be saving yourself from a lot of pain and discomfort if you follow a strict gluten-free diet.
People With Gluten ataxia
This is another autoimmune disorder among gluten-related disorders.
However, it goes through a pretty different process. It affects certain nerve tissues and causes problems with muscle control and voluntary muscle movement.
Like with other gluten-related disorders, it'd be better for your health and comfort to follow a lifelong gluten-free diet.
People With Wheat Allergies
Like other allergies, wheat allergy is also an immunity-related disorder that mistakes gluten or another wheat protein as a virus attacking the body.
In this case, you shouldn't eat gluten and instead seek bread and pasta made with gluten-free flour
Otherwise, gluten-free diets are healthy, but they're not the same as a healthy diet. Many people who adopt a gluten-free diet do so because they think it will help them in their weight loss journey and improve their health.
However, there's no evidence to suggest that this is true for most people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (although it may be true for some). No studies observed consistent enough statistics that indicate those who follow a gluten-free diet or avoid eating gluten-containing foods lose weight because of it.
Many foods marketed as "gluten-free" are highly processed and contain more sugar than their regular counterparts--a far cry from eating whole grains in moderation!
So strictly speaking, the people who must follow a gluten-free diet are those who are intolerant to gluten in any form or have a wheat allergy.
While others who are only seeking a healthier diet or to lose weight might not find exactly what they want with this diet, especially not with processed gluten-free foods.
You can still follow it! But there is no particular reason why you should choose it over any other healthy diet.
What are the symptoms of intolerance and celiac disease?
In any case, if you're not sure whether you or other family members are showing gluten intolerance or not, those are the main symptoms that signify it:
Abdominal pain, fatigue, and mouth ulcers are common symptoms of celiac disease.
And nausea, vomiting, irritable bowel syndrome, and diarrhea can also be symptoms of gluten intolerance.
Depression has been linked to both conditions and some people who have celiac disease also have neurological issues such as headaches or brain fog.
So those also might be symptoms, although, like the others, they can also be unrelated and signify something else.
Anemia is another symptom often associated with an intolerance or celiac disease because it causes your body to not make enough red blood cells (which carry oxygen throughout your body) due to the malabsorption of nutrients from foods like iron or folate (folic acid).
However, if you're having a mixture of those symptoms, it's best to consult your doctor first and get a diagnosis before making any changes to your diet, as they might be symptoms of other things altogether!
What are the different types of gluten?
There are many different types of gluten. While we covered that gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, it's also found in some other gluten-containing grains such as oats and spelt.
Don't forget that barley malt and other malt beverages also contain gluten!
Is it possible to have a gluten allergy without having celiac disease?
As mentioned, it's possible and common enough!
Gluten allergy is a reaction to gluten that doesn't cause damage to the small intestine. It's different from celiac disease, which can lead to other serious health problems if left untreated.
Gluten allergy symptoms are similar to those of celiac disease: digestive issues like diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal pain; skin rashes; fatigue; joint pain; weight loss (or gain).
However, people who have a gluten allergy don't experience intestinal damage as those with celiac disease do--and their symptoms tend not to be as severe or long-lasting.
A gluten-free diet may help treat these symptoms for some people who have been diagnosed with non-celiac wheat sensitivity or wheat allergy but not celiac disease.
Can Celiac Disease Be Treated?
Sadly, no. The only treatment for celiac disease is to eliminate gluten from one's diet.
However, a gluten-free diet doesn't mean less enjoyable food or a lower quality of life! There are many ways to go about it that ensure health and fulfillment.
How much does it cost?
The cost of going gluten-free can be higher than you think, as many gluten-free products are more expensive than their regular counterparts.
You might need to buy special ingredients and/or cook at home more often to save money.
It can get expensive quickly: You'll have to start paying attention to ingredients lists instead of just blindly buying whatever looks good at the store; also keep in mind that products labeled "wheat free" often contain other forms of wheat (like spelt) which could still trigger symptoms even though they aren't technically on your list!
If you're currently on a tight budget and haven't been able to afford healthy food in the past, then this could be a huge problem for you.
However, if you're someone who has always been able to buy healthy food—and who prefers not eating out all the time—then perhaps going gluten-free won't affect your budget too much.
Either way, if you're intolerant or have celiac disease, then you have little choice in the matter. But on the good side, because it's been getting mainstream lately, this indicates that prices of gluten-free products can go down in the future.
What Can You Do?
As a gluten-free diet is the only treatment, here is a comprehensive list of what you should do to make sure your gluten-free diet goes as smoothly and safely as possible!
Read Ingredient labels
The most important thing to do when starting a gluten-free diet is to read labels.
Food manufacturers are required by law to disclose the presence of gluten in their products, but there are still some sneaky ways they can get around this rule. So you must educate yourself on what ingredients look like and how they're processed so you can check for them yourself.
Check for gluten on the food label for staple ingredients like cereal, pasta, flour, and baking mixes.
You should also be aware that some companies may use different names for grains that contain gluten--for example, "wheat" could be listed as "farina" or "farro."
Make a list of all the meals that you frequently make.
A good way to start is by making a list of all the meals that you frequently prepare.
This will help you identify the foods you eat most often and also determine what ingredients are in them.
Once you have made your list, look at each item on it individually. Is there anything in there that might contain gluten? If so, write down what type of gluten-containing ingredient is being used (bread crumbs, wheat flour) and then cross off any items containing that ingredient from your shopping list for the next time around.
Switch to healthy gluten-free alternatives.
Naturally, gluten-free foods will be your best friend in you have a wheat allergy, celiac disease, or any other non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Gluten-free substitutes include high-quality protein - meat, fish, poultry, and eggs are naturally gluten-free.
Freshly prepared fruits and vegetables are also usually safe. Beans, seeds, legumes, and nuts are also good. Although make sure they are not processed food products but in their natural form.
Most low-fat dairy products are also safe naturally gluten-free food.
Avoid packaged and processed foods.
If a product is made in a facility that processes wheat-containing foods, it may contain small amounts of gluten even if it doesn't appear on the label.
So, as much as you could, avoid processed foods and try to prepare your meals from scratch, especially if you have celiac disease.
If your sensitivity isn't as serious then you can get processed foods if you don't have any other choice. But preferably, try to seek other choices before you resort to that.
Avoid Cross-contamination In Traditional Restaurants and Cafes
This can be a serious problem, but there are ways around it! Here are a few things to keep in mind when dining out on a gluten-free diet:
Ask about the preparation of the food.
If it was cooked in a shared fryer or grill, ask if they can prepare it separately and make sure that they're using separate utensils with no risk of cross-contamination.
Ask about ingredients used in each dish; some items may contain traces of gluten even though they're not considered "gluten-containing."
For example, soy sauce often contains wheat flour as an additive (soybeans are sometimes grown on fields that also grow wheat).
The same goes for Worcestershire sauce and many seasonings like mustard powder; these things may be safe for most people but could cause problems for those with celiac disease, gluten ataxia, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).
What should you know when dining at a restaurant that doesn't have a gluten-free menu?
When dining at a restaurant that does not have a gluten-free menu, you should be prepared to ask questions.
If you're unsure about what ingredients are used in any given dish, ask the waiter if they can provide ingredient information.
You may also want to ask if they can make substitutions or prepare your meal separately from other dishes on the table.
If possible, try ordering off the chef's special menu or asking if they would be willing to prepare something special for you in advance of your arrival.
This isn't strict for restaurants and cafes either! Cross-contamination can happen anywhere!
Make sure whoever prepares your meal understands how important it is not only that they wash their hands thoroughly after handling regular pieces of bread.
But also with other items that contain hidden traces of wheat like flour tortillas or pizza crusts which may have been used earlier in the day before being discarded into trash cans.
In that case, dust particles might settle onto them again later when someone opens those same bags up again unexpectedly...or worse yet...by accidentally touching another surface nearby that has already been contaminated by prior contact with other foods containing gluten sources such as pasta noodles made out of wheat flour itself.
This could easily spread onto surfaces nearby during prep times so always be aware when ordering takeout meals from restaurants where employees might forget themselves while working long hours during busy periods such as Christmas vacations when schedules tend towards overtime hours due to its popularity among customers who want quality food served quickly during these festive holidays."
Gluten Found in Medications
Gluten found in medications can cause you to develop symptoms of celiac disease. If you're taking a medication that contains gluten, it's best to talk with your doctor about how this may affect your health.
Medications that contain gluten include Birth control pills (oral contraceptives) and Antacids. Generally, always be aware of your medication and whether it contained gluten or not.
Watch Out for Hidden Gluten
Just because someone says their product is "gluten-free" doesn't mean it's safe for you to eat it.
Many gluten-free foods are higher in fat and calories than their counterparts. And while some of these items may be safe for you to eat, others could contain ingredients that will trigger an allergic reaction or other health problems.
For example, gluten-free loaves of bread are often made with refined starches like potato flour or cornmeal instead of whole grains like wheat flour (which contain more nutrients).
So if you swap out traditional bread for something labeled "gluten-free," your diet might get worse!
A lot of people assume that "low fat" means "healthy." But when manufacturers remove fat from foods like cookies or crackers--which tend to be high in sugar anyway--they replace it with extra sugar or artificial sweeteners like aspartame (also known as NutraSweet). These additives have been linked to cancer and other health problems over time; so while they might seem healthier now...you really shouldn't eat them!
When in doubt, leave it out!
If you can't find out if your food is gluten-free or not, it better not risk it and just eat something else.
How to Store Food Safely
When you're following a gluten-free diet, it's essential to store your food properly.
If you don't, certain foods can become stale or go bad more quickly than usual. Storing your gluten-free items correctly will help ensure that they stay fresh for longer and taste better when eaten.
Here are some tips for storing your gluten-free groceries:
Store dry goods in airtight containers or bags with good seals (such as Ziploc). This will prevent them from absorbing moisture from the air, which can cause them to get moldy or stale faster than normal.
Make sure that any containers you use are labeled clearly so that anyone who handles them knows what's inside!
Gluten Dietary Supplements
With all your effort in seeking a healthy diet that's gluten-free, eating only gluten-free foods can still limit your options and the nutrients that come into your body.
And following a lifelong gluten-free diet might leave you with nutritional deficiencies.
In that case, with a doctor's supervision, of course, you might want to seek dietary supplements like Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin D, Calcium, and Iron among others.
Spreading Awareness of Celiac Disease
A gluten-free diet can be a healthy and fulfilling option for individuals with Celiac Disease.
Now that you know what gluten is and why it's important to avoid it if you have celiac disease, let's talk about spreading awareness.
Gluten-free diets are becoming more common in the United States. In fact, according to a report from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), more than one in every 100 people eats gluten-free food regularly!
That's good news for those who suffer from celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity--but how do we make sure everyone knows about this?
The answer lies in spreading awareness about what exactly gluten is and how best to avoid it for those living with these conditions.
So, there you have it! You don't need to give up on your favorite foods or even give up bread if you're diagnosed with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. The key is knowing what products are safe for your body and how to eat them.
We hope this guide has helped learn about the gluten-free diet so that you can make informed choices about what's best for your body type and lifestyle needs!
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