People usually believe that gluten is a grain or any protein. In reality, it is a several peptides composite from the prolamin family of proteins!
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Usually, this substance can be found in a lot of foods, so it is quite a challenge to follow a gluten-free diet. That is why a whole industry has been developed lately to serve the needs of those who suffer from gluten sensitivity and celiac disease.
The Infamous Gluten Sensitivity
To be honest, this condition is widely spread with just a different degrees of intensity. It is estimated that tn United States approximately one in ten people suffers from some form of gluten sensitivity, experiencing:
- Allergic reaction (a histamine response) – Symptoms are similar to other forms of allergy: watery eyes, sneezing, sniffing and so on. The best approach is to contact a doctor in order to confirm what are you allergic at.
- Intolerance (an autoimmune effect) – In this case antibodies attack small intestine, killing the microvilli of its wall and making digestion much harder. Not only that, toxins can pass into the bloodstream easier, while limiting absorption on vital nutrients.
Pay attention: Celiac disease is the toughest form of intolerance. Its incidence in United States is estimated at one in 133 people, although a lot of them don’t realize they suffer from it.
The 6 Most Common Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance
Most symptoms are focused on gastrointestinal tract. They all include:
The most serious impact is malnutrition, as a result of microvilli extinction and of small intestine inflammation.
Keep in mind: There are a lot of different malnutrition symptoms that make intolerance sometimes hard to identify as the root cause!
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Comparison: Intolerance vs. Celiac Disease
Most people believe that gluten intolerance and Celiac disease are the same thing. However, that is far from the truth! In terms of similarities, the symptoms are fairly similar and so is the response to this diet.
Doctors will take a biopsy of the wall of the small intestine before and after about six weeks of this kind of eating regimen. In both intolerance and Celiac disease, microvilli are damaged and in both cases, they start to recover with this eating regimen.
There are two differences between them:
- The first one is that in case of Celiac disease, patient will present raised levels of certain antibodies: AGA, EMA and Anti-tTG. This does not hold true in the other case.
- The other difference is on the genes side. If in addition to presenting intolerance symptoms you also have the genes HLA-DQ8 or HLA-DQ2, then you have celiac disease. If not, you don’t.
Keep in mind: It is important to keep in mind that if you test negative for Celiac disease, it does not mean that you don’t have the intolerance. If you present symptoms you can go on diet for a while and monitor effects. If you start feeling better, then you should probably start to follow this special diet permanently.
Food List: Do´s & Dont´s!
1. Veggies (OK)
In general fresh veggies, including the frozen ones, are OK. These are some you are allowed to enjoy:
- Spinach etc.
However, you need to pay special attention if you buy ready prepared veggies. They may contain starches and should be avoided.
2. Fruits (OK)
Among the fruits that can be included, we can and definitely should mention these:
Generally, all fresh fruits are allowed to be eaten but stay away from processed fruits that have artificial substances in it!
3. Meat & Poultry (OK)
Good news! Meats are allowed!! However, you need to take care with processed or cooked meat, not to contain wheat. Poultry products are also OK to be included in your diet.
Here is a list that you can have:
Pay attention: All of these foods should be okay to eat while on gluten free diet! However, meatballs, frozen meats, sausages contain gluten in general!
4. Starchy Foods (Not OK)
All regular breads and pasta must be avoided, as they usually contain flour from wheat or barley. You also need to avoid cereals for breakfast, so no muesli with oats for you.
“Pure oats” are actually food you can enjoy, but in most cases they are processed in a way by which they come into contact with wheat! Rye and couscous are out. You can have rice, especially the brown one, quinoa and beans though.
Many people really enjoy bread, so fortunately producers found a solution for those affected by Celiac disease. You have a choice between frozen and un-frozen bread.
- If you go for frozen, then Grainless Baker Brand and Rudi’s may have just what you need. Both brands offer several types of bread, and not only.
- For unfrozen bread, Udi’s has good products. You can also indulge with Schar bread and their ciabata rolls, dinner rolls, long rolls and hamburger rolls.
Besides bread, a lot of the people who need to avoid gluten, would still like to eat baked food. The problem is that the wheat flour normally used in such foods does contain gluten.
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Therefore you have to look for alternatives such as coconut and almond flours! Using these expands your daily menu significantly! Keep in mind that you will be able to enjoy the forbidden dishes once again.
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Beer: Your Friend or Enemy on Gluten Free Diet?
Beer is such a common pleasure for most of us! Barley is one of the key beer ingredients and this makes it unsuitable for anyone who is gluten sensitive! Producers tried to make beer with grains such as rice, maize and sorghum, together with just a small quantity of barley malt.
Apparently these are safe to drink. Moreover, during the brewing process, it seems that gluten protein is broken down into amino acids and it should not be harmful anymore. This is arguable though and in the end you will need to try it yourself to see how your body will react!
Best Sources of Awesome & Tasty Recipes!
There are a lot of awesome recipes out there. You don’t need to worry that you won’t be able to enjoy tasty dishes in order to avoid that nasty stuff.
So where can you find them?
The online world is your friend. The site AllRecipes.com for example offers not only a lot of awesome recipes, but also full consumer reviews. These are very helpful when you need to chose your dish.
You could start by taking a look at the top rated recipes and then read a few reviews as well!
Keep in mind: There are also other recipe websites available. Your best bet is to go for the ones that don’t try to sell you something, as these are less authentic.
Advice #1 – Get Inspiration from Others!
You can join forums and get in-touch with other people who need to follow this type of diet. They will be happy to share recipes with you. Moreover you can develop valuable relationships and exchange many other tips regarding this condition.
With some creativity, you can enjoy even dishes you may believe they are out of your menu for good. For example, pizza! Yes, we all love pizza, but normally, this is a major no-no food if you have Celiac disease. Regular dough is full of gluten. But for example, you can prepare a pizza you are allowed to eat by combining acceptable dough, veggies and rice cheese.
What about mustard for example, do you need to give-up the pleasure of using it? It depends. Mustard seeds are OK, so you are allowed to use the mustard in raw form. Most products you can buy in the store do have ingredients which make those products not suitable. There are exceptions though. Check the label and if there is no flour, vinegar, beer or malt among the ingredients, then you can use that product.
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And desserts? If you don’t have any idea what to eat, you can just prepare a fresh fruit salad in a few minutes. Compatible ice cream is also not very hard to make. However, you don’t need to worry about options. Just take a look on the recipes website mentioned above and you will be amazed at how creative people are.
Advice #2 – Organic Food, Anyone?
If you need to follow a this type of diet, you need to pay much more attention to food selection than regular people. You could take this opportunity to make a significant progress in how healthy your diet is overall.
In this context, why not include mostly organic food into your menu? This will probably prolong your life with a few years, as it brings significant benefits to your body.
Advice #3 – The Benefits of Fiber
We all know the importance of a high fiber intake in a healthy diet. For the digestive system to work well, fibers play a key role. It helps to:
- Avoid constipation
- Reduce the risk of ischaemic heart disease
- Reduce probability of certain types of cancer
The challenge is that when thinking about fibers, people usually have in mind wholegrain bread and wheat bran. However, we need to take a broader view and recognize that there are various different and better sources of fiber.
Keep in mind: You can take your fibers from leaves, seeds, roots, pods and stems. Soy and rice bran can substitute wheat bran. Moreover, you can also take your dose of fiber from beans, peas, dried fruit, nuts, fresh fruits and veggies!
Advice #4 – The Healthy Weight Loss
Going on a gluten-free diet can help with weight loss, especially in combination with exercise. The explanation is that a lot of the foods that you need to give-up are usually high in calorie content (such as carbs for example).
The gluten free diet is by default better for weight loss purposes than a regular one. If you are interested in shedding some pounds, you should take advantage of combining the gluten free diet with regular workouts to maximize the effect!
Advice #5 – Celiac Disease & Exercise
Exercising in general is recommended in the case of Celiac disease, for a number of reasons. First, it can be a tool to better weight control, as mentioned above. However, this is not the only reason though!
Further resources on this eating regimen:
Osteopenia and osteoporosis have quite a high incidence among Celiac disease patients. Exercising can help strengthen your bones, especially weight bearing exercises like walking and running. Moreover, it contributes to having better circulation and also better mood!
ATTENTION: Sensitivity, Psoriasis & Eczema
Several studies confirmed a correlation between psoriasis, eczema and celiac disease or gluten sensitivity patients. Because our bodies are complex systems any food sensitivities or allergies have a certain impact on your overall well being and may cause various kinds of disorders!
In specific cases, i.e. psoriasis and eczema, cutting out the gluten proved useful. Patients following this type of diet showed significant improvements in skin lesions after a few months!
My Conclusion & Final Words
To conclude, if you suffer from any form of gluten sensitivity, you should definitely be on this diet. However, this should not be limiting! While there are rules to be followed, certain foods to be avoided, there are also a lot of tasty options available.
The foods industry has developed a lot in the past years and they offer to their customers quite a wide range of products. Moreover, you can prepare yourself a lot of otherwise forbidden dishes, by replacing the traditional ingredient containing gluten with alternatives.
Keep in mind that in order to be successful, you need to develop a bit of knowledge on what foods you are allowed to eat. This is not a hard task though and there are plenty of gluten-free delicious recipes you can enjoy!