Millions of Americans suffer from celiac disease, which is an allergy to gluten and manifests in a myriad of symptoms, mainly bloating, weight loss, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. When exposed to gluten, an immune reaction occurs in people who have celiac disease which causes damage to the small intestine and an incapacity to absorb certain nutrients. There is no cure for celiac disease but it can be efficiently managed with a Gluten-Free Diet (GFD).
According to MayoClinic.com, food or drinks that contains gluten include, but are not limited to:
- Graham flour
- Matzo meal
- Spelt (a form of wheat)
As seen on The Dr. Oz Show, while a gluten free diet is typically prescribed to people with celiac disease, many people actually have a gluten-intolerance which means they feel better when they avoid foods that contain gluten. As such, the market for gluten-free products have sky-rocketed but in many cases, "gluten-free" may mean a supposed harmless level of gluten vs. a complete absence of gluten.
One of the important things to be aware of when you're on a gluten-free diet is cross-contamination. Always check the label to see if the product was made or processed in a facility that is wheat-free or free of other gluten contaminating products. Another thing to keep in mind is anything that may come in contact with your mouth may have gluten in it or has come in contact with gluten. Gluten is not only in food, it is used as a stabilizing agent or a thickener so be aware of the ingredients in lipsticks/balms, medications or vitamins, even toothpaste.
There are many naturally gluten-free foods available and should be incorporated into the diet as much as possible. Not only are these foods unprocessed, they also contain no gluten at all vs. a safe level of gluten. Many people are mistaken in believing a gluten-free product is healthy when in reality, processed gluten-free foods may have up to twice the amount of calories and lower fiber content than it's gluten-containing counterpart.
According to the MayoClinic.com, acceptable grains and starches when on a gluten-free diet:
- Gluten-free flours (rice, soy, corn, potato, bean)
- Hominy grits
Other naturally occurring gluten-free foods include:
- Fresh meats, fish and poultry (not breaded, batter-coated or marinated)
- Most dairy products
- Wine and distilled liquors, ciders and spirits
As with any diet, on a gluten-free diet, dieters should find natural food options before heading for processed products. Not only do you get the benefits of nutrients and vitamins, you know natural food has not been potentially cross-contaminated with other gluten-products. With so many naturally occurring gluten-free options, making healthy GFD meals should be a snap!