November is gluten-free diet awareness month to sheds light not only on celiac’s disease, but a trend that has seemingly hit every major grocery store shelf. Many people are becoming gluten-free eaters without knowing why.
Gluten-Free & Celiac Disease
First of all, those with an official celiac disease diagnosis are the ones that actually require a gluten-free diet. There are many that self-diagnose, claiming they are gluten-intolerant. However, a self-diagnosis is not the same as being diagnosed with celiac disease by an actual doctor.
So, what is celiac disease?
Celiac disease is often hereditary and symptoms begin at an early age. The autoimmune disease is triggered by the consumption of gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten damages the finger-like villi in the intestines that absorb nutrients. Celiac sufferers often face malnourishment as a result.
Further consequences of untreated celiac disease can lead to thyroid disease, osteoporosis, and, in extreme cases, cancer.
Symptoms of Celiac Disease
• Abdominal discomfort such as bloating, excessive flatulence, and diarrhea.
• Iron deficiency, which ultimately leads to anemia.
• Blisters and itchy skin, including ulcers in the mouth as well as tooth enamel damage.
• Nervous system damage, which can lead to tingling and numbness of hands and feet.
• Joint pain, cognitive impairment, and loss of balance as well as bone density.
• Vomiting, weight loss or weight gain, and acid reflux.
• In rare cases, blood can be present in stool.
Gluten-Free Is The Only Solution
Currently, there is no cure for celiac disease except for abstaining from foods containing gluten. But gluten happens to be in many foods, many of which we are not even aware of.
Gluten-Free? Not So Fast!
- Oatmeal: Some oatmeal can get contaminated by nearby wheat fields. While other types of oatmeal might be flavored with caramel coloring that is wheat-bearing.
- Soy Sauce: Some soy sauce is made with fermented wheat, so look for the gluten-free label when purchasing. There are brands of soy sauce that are gluten-free.
- Pickles: Some pickles are made with malt vinegar, which comes from ale. Ale is made from wheat.
- French Fries: Some French fries are made with batter that contains wheat flower.
- Whole grains: Couscous, barley, smelt, and kamut all contain gluten. However, buckwheat, quinoa, flax, millet, and sorghum are gluten-free.
Processed & Packaged Foods
- Salad dressing: Any salad dressing that contains malt vinegar, soy, or flour contains gluten.
- Some Meat Substitutes: Some vegetarian and vegan meats are made with seitan, which is wheat gluten.
- Energy Bars: Some energy bars are made with wheat and oats; both are not gluten-free.
- Potato chips: Any potato chip containing malt vinegar (salt and vinegar chips) or wheat starch is not gluten-free.
- Soups: Some but not all soups contain wheat in some form.
- Gravy: Any gravy that contains flour is not good for people with celiac disease. However, gravy made with cornstarch is fine.
- Beef Jerky: Some beef jerky is made with MSG, loads of salt and gluten. There are now jerky products on the market that are organic and gluten-free.
Alcohol, Especially Beer, Is A Given
- Alcohol: Not only does beer and ale contain gluten, so does whiskey, rye whiskey, and bourbon. However, if you are gluten intolerant, you can drink wine, cider, tequila, and rum
Do You Need To Be Gluten-Free?
Honestly, many diet restrictions, unless mandated by a doctor, can be taken to the extreme. If you want to stay away from gluten and make everything you eat gluten-free, then go for it. At the end of the day, eating a balanced diet is what’s most important. This is especially true if you don’t actually have celiac disease. Adopting healthier lifestyle choices is key to good physical health as well as mental health.
If your aim is to lose weight, going gluten-free just because it’s a fad isn’t enough reason. Also, a gluten-free diet alone will not help you shed pounds.
Don’t Self-Diagnose By “Googling” It
Anytime you have questions about your diet, go to your doctor and make sure you are properly diagnosed and screened for celiac disease. It’s too easy these days to Google symptoms and then jump to a conclusion. Instead of self-diagnosing, always check with your doctor and have a professional provide a diagnosis after a thorough examination and lab work.
Eating a gluten-free diet, even if you don’t have celiac’s disease is a personal decision. Gluten can wreak havoc to your autoimmune system if you do have celiac’s disease, so if you are experiencing symptoms don’t wait. Get checked immediately.
Gluten-Free Is A Lifestyle Choice For Some, But An Absolute Must For Celiac Sufferers!