Do you often experience digesting problems or get a feeling of nausea or bloating in your stomach? There is a possibility for you to be suffering from gluten intolerance. First of all, let’s examine what gluten is and where it can be found.Gluten stands for a group of proteins contained in wheat and similar grains like barley and rye.
Gluten has the function of glue, holding the foods together. Gluten ingestion has been linked to more than 55 diseases and health issues, some of them considered below.When someone with gluten intolerance consumes gluten, the body triggers an abnormal immune response during digestion which can affect the intestines.Gluten proteins are not an essential component in the human diet because they have low nutritional value. However, an incorrect choice of a gluten free diet may lead to nutritional deficiencies.
Are You Gluten Intolerant?
Gluten has been linked to couple of diseases that can go undetected for some time.In fact, around 80% of people are not aware they have a disease linked to gluten consumption.The exact cause standing behind gluten intolerance has not been discovered yet and it can range from gluten sensitivity to celiac disease.
People that suffer from gluten intolerance often experience fatigue and headaches after eating a meal that contains gluten. Other symptoms of gluten intolerance may include dizziness, pain in joints, migraine headaches and mood swings.However, if migranes and dizziness are accompanied by vertigo, you should look for a proper vertigo treatment instead.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disorder is an autoimmune disease that affects one in 100 people worldwide and is considered to be genetically predisposed. When someone with celiac disorder ingests gluten, it triggers an autoimmune response which destroys the small intestine leading to malabsorption of vital ingredients. If untreated, it can be the cause for many diseases.Symptoms of celiac disease include stomach bloating, gas, diarrhea, weight loss/gain, constant fatigue, feeling weak, headaches, depression that does not respond to medication, abdominal pain or unusual changes in behavior.
At the moment, the only way to treat celiac disease is to keep a completely gluten free lifestyle. Before you start any gluten free diet, see a doctor and get tested for celiac disease first.It is not recommended to self-diagnose, the only way to be diagnosed is to undergo the required screening and diagnostic tests to confirm celiac disease.Eliminating gluten from your diet and orienting towards gluten free meals can be challenging. However, it can be a chance to develop a healthier lifestyle and even people not suffering from gluten intolerance can benefit if they practice it from time to time.
Gluten and Cholesterol Levels
Gluten is considered a common cause for high cholesterol. If you are prone to gluten intolerance, your body may be overproducing cholesterol to heal tissue damage caused by untreated gluten intolerance. Switching to a gluten free lifestyle can dramatically reduce cholesterol levels.The elimination of wheat from diet is one of the most powerful techniques used to lower cholesterol naturally in a month or less.
The Food Pyramid Reconsidered: What to Avoid?
A gluten-free diet is primarily used to control signs and symptoms of celiac disease and to prevent further complications. Excluding gluten may be frustrating but with time, patience and doing a little research, you’ll find that there is a plenty of choice and many gluten free substitutes that you can enjoy. The following grains are the most common sources of gluten and should be completely excluded from diet:
- Wheat and its varieties
- Malt and malt beverages
Additionally, if you are diagnosed with gluten intolerance, these are some products that you should definitely avoid:
- Pasta and noodles (spaghetti, gnocchi, lasagna)
- Cereal (porridge, wheat, couscous)
- Baking products and Pastries (bread, cakes, pizza, biscuits)
- Brewer’s yeast
Other foods that may contain gluten
Some products may not necessarily contain gluten, but there might have been a cross-contact with ingredients containing gluten or through shared cooking environment and must be verified. Some of them are:
- Energy or candy bars
- Cream soups
- Salad dressings
- Soy sauce
- French fries
In order to avoid products that may contain sources of gluten in unexpected ways always read the labels before buying, especially if there is no “gluten free” label.
Are Oats Allowed?
Naturally, oats do not contain gluten, but sometimes they can be the cause of a similar response to gluten due to avenin, a protein similar to gluten. Additionally, they are often harvested and processed with the same equipment used for wheat, and can be easily contaminated.
However, researchers found out that it is not dangerous to consume oats, but problems might appear as a result of the cross-contact with other grains containing gluten, which is the case in most mills producing oats together with wheat, barley or rye. The best way to prevent this is to use certified and labeled gluten free oats.
What about Alcohol?
Just because you switched to a gluten free lifestyle, it does not mean you can’t have a drink with your friends – you just need to know which alcoholic beverages are gluten free and safe to consume. Bad news for beer drinkers – beer contains ingredients that are not gluten free such as hops and barley. Luckily, there are some beers specifically crafted for people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease. Besides that, cider is a good and safe alternative to beer because it is made from apples.
When talking about spirits and distilled alcoholic beverages, most experts state that even those made with grains which are not gluten free, are safe to drink because gluten is removed in the process of distillation. Bourbon and whiskey are not universally accepted as gluten free because sometimes the distillation process is not carried out properly and the final product can still contain a small amount of gluten.All in all, the safest option is to drink beverages that are made of ingredients not containing alcohol (wine, potato vodka, gin, tequila or rum) and to avoid any beverage that might cause a negative reaction.
Gluten Free Baked Goods
Traditional baked products are not gluten free. Pasta, bread and crackers all gluten containing foods, but that does not mean that you can’t enjoy these foods any more. In most health food stores and supermarket departments dedicated to a healthy lifestyle, you can find gluten-free substitutes for pasta, bread, crackers, bread rolls, cereals and more.
Other good news is that many types of gluten free flour can be found in the health food stores and you can make your own delicious gluten free bread.There are plenty of gluten free flour alternatives: chestnut,coconut, almond, soy, millet and rice or lentil flour.Making gluten free bread at home allows experimenting and adding a variety of healthy gluten free ingredients like flax seed, honey, cashews, almond flour and olive oil. If you don’t have spare time to bake your own gluten free bread, there is a possibility to find gluten free bread in the freezer section in the store.
Preparing Gluten Free Meals
Diet plays a key role in the treatment of celiac disease and other gluten related diseases. In order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, you should orient towards a diet with a variety of ingredients rich with minerals and vitamins. The following list of naturally gluten free food groups that will help you prepare healthy gluten free meals:
- Low Sugar Fruit (avocado, raspberries, blackberries, lemons, olives, cranberries, kiwi)
- Vegetables ( especially leafy greens, onions, sauerkraut, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, bell pepper, artichokes, celery, parsley, garlic, kale, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms)
- Dairy Products (eggs, both full cream and low fat milk, soy milk, cheese, yoghurt, kefir)
- Legumes and Beans(in their unprocessed form)
- Nuts (almonds, walnuts, peanuts and peanut butter)
- Naturally Gluten Free Grains (rice, quinoa, chia, buckwheat groats,flax, millet)
Other products that you can use to enrich your gluten free meals are:
- Condiments (honey, jam, maple syrup, cocoa, gluten free sauces and salad dressings)
- Non-alcoholic drinks(all kinds of tea, coffee, mineral water)
- Alcoholic beverages (wine, spirits, liqueurs and gluten free beer)
- Gluten Free Pasta (rice noodles, buckwheat noodles)
- Snacks (popcorn, chocolate, corn chips)
Avoid gluten contamination
When cooking in a common kitchen environment and sharing utensils, it is important for people with coeliac disease to avoid contaminating their food with gluten. Tips include:
- Use a separate toaster
- Keep separate gluten free utensils or thoroughly clean all chopping boards and utensils that have been used for foods containing gluten
- Avoid using oil that has been used to cook gluten containing foods
- Wash your hands after being in contact with gluten containing food
Conscious cooking is the path to healing the mind and the body. If you think you don’t have enough time, start implementing small changes in your day-to-day lifestyle. If you are still having symptoms over time, be sure to consult a doctor or a professional nutritionist in case you are accidentally eating gluten or if something else may be the root of the problem. Always remind yourself that it does take time for the body to heal itself.Over time, you will discover that small steps make the greatest changes.