Going to a Gluten Free Lifestyle
Gluten Free living is generating a lot of buzz these days. There are many reasons why people are choosing gluten free living. For so many people the big questions is WHY? I am hoping to answer that question for you today as well as many other gluten free frequently asked questions. Let’s start with the basics:
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley as well as wheat related grains.
Isn’t gluten just in bread?
No, definitely not. There are many processed foods that contain gluten. There is even gluten in some candy, broth, chips, gravy, soy sauce, baked beans and salad dressing. You can see how living a gluten free lifestyle can be difficult and requires diligence.
Why go gluten free?
Statistically 1 in 133 Americans can’t digest gluten. 1 in 7 people have gluten sensitivities or intolerance. The inability to digest gluten triggers an immune response that damages the lining of the small intestine. This damaging process is known as Celiac Disease. Celiac Disease interferes with the absorption of nutrients in the body. This puts sufferers at risk for anemia, bone diseases, malnutrition and other health problems. Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity and gluten intolerance are very good reasons to live gluten free. A gluten free diet will also treat Dermatitis Herpetiformis which is just like celiac disease except the auto-immune response attacks the skin instead of the intestine.
Symptoms of Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivities
Symptoms vary considerably but many people suffer from abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation. Other symptoms include rashes, canker sores, bone and joint pain, fatigue, depression and fertility. The only way to treat Celiac disease at this time is with a Gluten Free diet.
Celiac disease is diagnosed with a simple blood or saliva test that will show high levels of antibodies. If these are present in your sample your doctor may order a test called an endoscopy. During the endoscopy your doctor will take a sample of tissue, a biopsy, that will show whether there has been damage to the lining of the intestine.
To determine gluten sensitivities or intolerances you can eliminate wheat, barley, and rye from your diet for 3-4 weeks to see if your symptoms improve. You should never diagnose yourself, however. This test should be done under the supervision of your doctor after other causes have been ruled out.
Is Living Gluten Free a Healthier Lifestyle
Is living gluten free healthier? Well, it is if you have Celiac disease or gluten intolerances. However, complex carbohydrates are an important part of our diet and those are the foods that contain gluten. Carbohydrates make up 55-60 % of a healthy balanced diet. Cutting out wheat, rye and barley also cuts out key sources of vitamin Bs, folate, and fiber. Breads and cereals are often fortified with iron, calcium, and vitamin D as well. So you can see, removing these items from your diet can leave a gaping nutritional hole. You can supplement your diet to make up for some of these losses. However, studies have shown over again that our bodies absorb nutrients best from foods. Choosing a gluten free diet is not usually the best choice unless you can not digest gluten.