What is a Gluten Free Diet?
You hear about it more and more these days. Store shelves are being stocked with “gluten free” foods. What is gluten and why do we need gluten free products? Here are a few facts about gluten free diets.
1. What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein that is found in a variety of grains including rye, wheat and barley. It is located in the endosperm of the grain. When you make flour out of these grains, it is impossible to remove gluten protein from it. The gluten gives breads and baked goods their chewiness which we all love. Unfortunately, it is this protein that helps bread to look and feel great that causes problems for people with celiac disease.
Gluten acts like a binding agent, holding other ingredients together. Other products use gluten protein as well as food manufacturers. Medicines, lipstick and even vitamins contain some measure of gluten for that reason.
2. Gluten Free Diet
Unless you have experienced problems when eating foods made from grains containing gluten, you don’t realize how pervasive they are. Wheat, rye and barley are used not just to make breads but pastas but tons of baked goods you enjoy for dessert. Because of celiac disease, finding alternatives to gluten is important.
People who suffer from gluten sensitivities experience symptoms ranging from bloating to cramps to digestive upset that could be confused with irritable bowel syndrome. Until cereal boxes with gluten free labels started to show up on grocery store shelves, many people weren’t aware of how hard it is to create a diet without gluten products.
Eating foods without this protein is one of the only ways that some people can keep their bodies from experiencing this pain. It is the best way to fight back against celiac disease for which there is not a cure at the moment.
3. Details of a Gluten Free Diet
If you have been diagnosed with gluten sensitivity, talk with your doctor. They may recommend a dietician familiar with celiac disease who is able to make recommendations for this type of diet. It won’t be easy at first, especially if you have enjoyed years of eating breads and desserts made with these grains.
He or she may discuss possible issues that can occur with your new diet. For instance, certain vitamins are lacking when you can’t consume foods made with rye, barley or wheat. In order to avoid any type of deficiencies that can put your health at risk, it is important to eat a well-rounded diet made up of all the allowed foods on list you will receive from your dietician or physician.
You will also be made aware of foods that have different names but are still essentially gluten products. For example, just because the label doesn’t say “contains, wheat, barley or rye” doesn’t mean you won’t find similar ingredients. Look out for semolina, durum flour and farina to name a few.
Living gluten free is not going to happen overnight. Take one step at a time.