What Does Gluten Free Actually Mean?

The Meaning of Gluten-Free

Gluten free means foods that do not have gluten. Commonly found in wheat, gluten is a type of protein. It is also found in barley and rye. Gluten is the ingredient that gives dough its elasticity. Some topical beauty treatments use gluten.

Gluten is used extensively as a food additive. Its property to thicken is beneficial in giving rigidity to highly fluid substances. Many types of confectionery use this protein as a flavoring agent.

Benefits of a Gluten-Free Diet

In the past decade, many people have switched over to a gluten free diet. They go all out to ensure that the food they eat does not contain gluten. You may see a lot of gluten-free packaged foods at grocery stores. Although many people prefer a gluten free diet, they really don’t understand the health benefits of a gluten free diet.

The Sudden Popularity of Gluten-Free Food

  • Recently many people have been diagnosed with celiac disease. These people have high sensitivity to gluten. It makes their condition worse. So a gluten free diet is prescribed by their doctors.
  • Additionally, many nutritionists feel that a gluten free diet has other benefits too. It has been linked to a marked decrease in cholesterol levels. It promotes optimum functioning of the digestive system. Food devoid of gluten is said to increase energy and efficiency levels, because gluten is said to produce lethargy and lower cognition levels.
  • Food researchers feel that avoiding gluten is avoiding certain types of food that use this substance. Which means that you are effectively avoiding unhealthy food. All the more reason to get healthy quickly.
  • Considering that fried foods, deserts, and confectionary use gluten, you will completely avoid them. And in the process experience better health levels.

Processed Foods Contain Gluten

  • Quite interestingly, it has been discovered that some famous processed foods manufacturers use gluten. This is an open secret. What was inconspicuous by its absence some time back is in the lime light now. People have begun consciously avoiding processed foods.
  • Processed foods may provide ready availability and easiness of consumption. But they are full of artificial flavoring and preservatives. And not to mention that they are high in gluten.
  • A gluten free diet entails you to eat non-processed food. This means you eat more of fruits and vegetables. You buy organic stuff more. You are always on the lookout for non-starchy types of foods.
  • A gluten free diet spares you of unhealthy oils. Some bread products may look inviting but they are harmful to the health. Why? Simply because they have unhealthy carbohydrates. A common instance of such a bread product is pastries. Even if they taste good, most pastries have unhealthy carbohydrates.
  • It is understood, accepted, and established throughout the medical field that a non-gluten diet is good for the heart. Certain cancers can be avoided by not using gluten. There is lower risk of diabetes for people who are off gluten forever.
  • A gluten free diet fortifies your immune system. You can fight off micro organic invaders with ease. Your body is stronger and with added resistance. This is achieved because as part of a gluten free diet you eat foods that are rich in antioxidants and vitamins. These are the essential ingredients that ward off infections.

Be Cautious with a Gluten-Free Diet

A gluten free diet can help you lose weight naturally and permanently. But you have to eat a balanced diet. You cannot expect to lose weight with only gluten free diets. If a gluten free diet is combined with other types of balanced meals, you can expect favorable results.

Be picky with your selection of vegetables and fruits. You need to do your research on which vegetables and fruits contain gluten and which do not. For instance potatoes are gluten free. And so is rice. Interestingly, pasta can be gluten free as well, as well as gluten free soy sauce in the mix. When you buy a pasta product check the ingredient list. You will most probably find no mention of gluten on the pack cover.

So what you need to be cautious about? Some manufacturers may hoodwink you by providing the wrong information o their packaging. Ingredient lists on food packages may not indicate the presence of gluten. But in reality these foods will have good quantities of gluten.  Don’t go for replacement products. Always choose branded products.

Foods That are Gluten-Free

Many grain varieties are gluten free. Potatoes, rice, and corn are considered to be excellent foods considering they have no traces of gluten. Beans such as soybean are an excellent source of protein. So you can use these beans as a source of protein in foods that are gluten free. Even nut flours can be used to enhance the protein content of your food without the presence of gluten in it.

Wheat flour should be completely avoided as it contains high concentrations of gluten. Almond flour can be used in lieu of wheat flour. Even buckwheat flour is in this league of wheat flour alternatives. If you explore more, you’d be surprised that there are many types of flours that are gluten free. For instance, gram flour does not contain any traces of gluten. And gram flour has many applications in the food space.

To be truly gluten free, just avoiding foods that contain gluten is not enough. Some over the counter medication may have gluten in them. Even some vitamin supplements have gluten in them. You are advised to refrain from using cosmetics that contain gluten. There are certain types of lipsticks that use a high concentration of gluten.

Before buying a lip balm product check if it contains gluten. Cosmetics generally display the presence or absence of this substance on their packaging covers. Certain face creams and lotions also contain gluten on account of gluten’s thickening properties.

Gluten comes in various forms, manifestations and combinations. Initially it could be tough staying away from it. But eventually you will learn where it can be found and where it cannot be found. And this is your way to begin a lifestyle that is gluten free.

Government Gluten-Free Regulations

  1. The product may not contain any of the following gluten proteins: wheat, tritical, kamut, barley, oats, rye or spelt.
  2. None of the ingredients may contain forms of proteins that have been modified or hydrolyzed from the above grains.
  3. The gluten-free product may not contain more than 20 ppm(parts per million). This is implemented due to the possibilities of cross contamination.
  4. It is good to note that the majority of companies take great care of their practices in manufacturing the gluten-free products in order to prevent as much cross contamination as possible.
  5. All ingredients used in the products that are from a gluten grain have been process in a way to remove the gluten protein which causes symptoms. Ingredients that are able to handle this process are wheat glucose syrup and wheat maltodextrin.
  6. A government recognized testing method has been used to determine if the gluten-free product is less than 20 ppm.
  7. Each product must be specifically designed and formulated to be eaten within a persons gluten-free diet in order to best represent their health.

Because of the last regulation many companies that have made gluten-free products will not have ‘gluten-free’ on their packages.

Do you have a gluten problem?

The problem of gluten intolerance, gluten allergy and celiac disease affects approximately 15% of the population of America. So, you may need to check out whether you actually have a gluten problem. Gluten is a type of protein most commonly found in certain cereals like wheat, rye and barley.

It is widely used as an additive in sauces, baked, canned and processed foods etc. Gluten is the element that makes bread stretchy and causes it to rise. Hence it is used in a vast variety of cakes, cookies as well as pasta, pizza etc.

The symptoms of gluten problem

You may have an allergic reaction to gluten or intolerance to it. In extreme cases, this gluten intolerance develops into celiac disease. This is an autoimmune condition where your digestive system fails to absorb the essential nutrients even if you ingest them. Gluten intolerance and allergy are more common. Whichever condition you have, you will need to properly identify this so that you can take appropriate steps.

Here are a few common symptoms which are seen to be associated with gluten intolerance and allergy:

  • One of the most common, yet most difficult to identify symptoms of gluten problems is fatigue. You will feel extremely tired – especially after eating foods that contain gluten. However, fatigue may be caused by a vast range of extraneous factors. So, just because you feel tired does not mean that you are intolerant of gluten.
  • Gluten intolerance is also suspected when there is sudden drastic change in weight – mostly weight loss. As your digestive system fails to absorb nutrients and process the gluten, you may experience consistent loss in weight.
  • A huge range of digestive disorders begin to manifest in persons with gluten intolerance. You will feel bloating, indigestion, gas and constipation. Heartburns become common. You may also experience diarrhea. These may lead to diverticulitis. Fat appears in stool as a result of incomplete or poor digestion. All these culminate in significant weight loss.
  • Related to the above are other symptoms like loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. Mouth ulcers may develop or you may feel irritation in the throat or the mouth.
  • There are quite a few other symptoms which indicate gluten intolerance and allergy. Your skin may itch and break out in rashes as a reaction to gluten. Dizziness, fainting spells, difficulty in swallowing, deficiency of vitamins and minerals, hair loss etc are common.
  • Headaches become frequent and attacks of migraine increase in frequency. Chest pains may also occur.
  • Women may experience additional symptoms. The menstrual cycle may be disturbed and in some cases it may even lead to infertility. In pregnant women, gluten intolerance may affect the growth and development of the baby.
  • Diabetes is aggravated.
  • Bone density reduces.
  • A number of dental problems develop.
  • Osteoporosis and muscle disturbances increase in severity.
  • Lactose intolerance may be caused.
  • Gluten allergy also causes the manifestation or aggravation of a number of psychological and neurological disorders. These include schizophrenia, attention deficit disorder, anxiety and depression.

As seen from the list of symptoms stated above, these can be caused by a number of other factors in addition to gluten intolerance. So, it requires systematic investigation to determine exactly what is causing these symptoms and whether gluten intolerance may be a reason.

How to identify the symptoms of gluten intolerance?

Here are a few steps which you may follow in order to identify a condition of gluten intolerance:

  • Watch your digestive health. Poor digestion is the most common fallout of a gluten allergy. If you observe symptoms like indigestion, bloating, gas, constipation, heartburn etc, chances are you are developing a gluten problem.
  • Another common way to determine whether you have a gluten problem or not is to keep a close watch on your own energy levels after eating. If you have a gluten problem, your digestive system will spend a lot of energy fighting the effects of gluten. As a result, you will feel fatigued and lethargic immediately after your meal.
  • Mental disturbances like irritability or depression are heightened after a meal in gluten intolerant individuals.
  • Similarly, if you have a gluten problem, headaches may develop following a meal.
  • There are a number of long term effects which you can carefully track to determine whether you have a gluten problem or not. Change in weight is one such indicator. If you are experiencing consistent long term fluctuations in weight without having changed your diet in any significant way, then you probably have a gluten problem.
  • Similarly, gluten problem also causes long term changes in your mental health. Anxiety and depression and irritability may increase consistently.
  • If there is persistence of allergies, rashes and problems like eczema, gluten problem may be a contributing factor. So, check the health of your skin, teeth and hair. Any long term decline may be caused by gluten intolerance.
  • Women should take note of irregularity of menstrual cycle and whether a problem of infertility is developing.
  • Once you observe all these symptoms, you can begin an elimination diet. Just carefully avoid all gluten containing foods for seven days. If gluten intolerance is indeed your source of problem, then you will see a definite reduction in the symptoms after a gluten free diet for a week.
  • The final step to confirm whether you have a gluten problem or not is to carry out a simple diagnostic test. When you consult a doctor, he will first ask you to observe and record the symptoms. If you go to the doctor after you have already completed this step, a blood test will determine whether you have celiac disease. In order to determine a gluten allergy, a skin prick test is carried out.

If it is confirmed that you do have a gluten problem, your life is not over. Just a carefully constructed healthy diet without gluten can help you live a happy and healthy lifestyle.

Could a celiac diet benefit your lifestyle?

In recent years, celiac diet has been popularized as a highly beneficial diet with a number of health related advantages. It is said that you can lose weight on a celiac diet, yet maintain a healthy lifestyle. Several prominent personalities including models and athletes vouch for this diet for healthy life. However, you must have a basic knowledge of the celiac diet before you begin to try this alternative diet.

What is a celiac diet and why is it necessary?

The term celiac diet connotes a diet which is specifically designed for patients with celiac disease. This diet can be followed by people who are free of celiac disease also. Celiac disease is an auto immune disease with sudden onset. In this disease, the intestines of your digestive system fail to absorb the essential nutrients from the foods that you consume.

As a result, you begin to suffer from a vast number of pains. Celiacs tend to gain or lose weight abruptly and fast. In addition, there are many other symptoms of the celiac disease which appears due to insufficient availability of essential nutrients.Rashes, allergies and itching are common.

The health of skin, hair and teeth suffer. A number of digestive problems begin to manifest. Incomplete digestion gives rise to feelings of bloating, gas and acid reflux. Nausea and vomiting are common. In extreme cases, conditions like diverticulitis may develop.

It is seen that eating gluten in your foods tends to aggravate the celiac disease. Hence, celiac are advised to follow a celiac diet. This diet is completely free of gluten. When celiac regularly stick to the celiac diet, a marked decrease in the severity of the symptoms is noticed.

One common symptom of celiac disease is a feeling of extreme fatigue accompanied by headache immediately following a meal. If celiac diet is followed, these symptoms reduce significantly in intensity within a short time. That is why a special diet has been recommended for people with celiac disease.

Things to be included and excluded from the celiac diet

The food items which have to be excluded from a celiac diet are as follows:

  • All gluten rich foods are eliminated. So, all wheat and wheat based products like cakes, cookies, biscuits, pizzas, pasta, spaghetti etc are not allowed in a celiac diet.
  • Gluten is used as a thickening agent in sauce, gravy, pudding, mustards etc. So these items are also excluded from a celiac diet.
  • In many cases, gluten is used as a food preservative. So, it can be found in processed and preserved foods, chips etc. Celiac diet disallows all such foods.

After the above exclusions, whatever is left can be ingested in a celiac diet. These are:

  • Gluten free cereals like rice, millets, quinoa, amaranth etc can be ingested in a gluten-free celiac diet.
  • All fresh fruits and veggies, nuts and berries are allowed in a celiac diet.
  • Lean protein and beneficial fats like Omega 3 fatty acids etc are also included within the celiac diet.

The impact of celiac diet on your lifestyle

The impact of celiac diet on your lifestyle will be completely diverse depending on whether you do or do not have celiac disease.

If you have celiac disease and so suffer from gluten allergy, celiac diet can have the following impact on your lifestyle:

  • It will require some practice to shop for gluten rich food. You will have to give up those TV diners completely. So, if you are following a celiac diet, expect some marked changes in your shopping and eating behavior.
  • Beer is not allowed on a celiac diet because it is made from cereals and contains gluten. Your drinking habits may change as you have to switch to other beverages and this may affect your lifestyle.
  • It may seem like a hardship to do without your favorite pizza or ice cream, but if you are a celiac, the physical relief of not struggling with an inefficient digestive system will be so great that you will soon begin to accept it as a normal part of your lifestyle.

If you are not a celiac but just want to follow the celiac diet because it is healthy, you will have the following impacts:

  • Non celiac generally experience an abrupt weight loss when they start on a celiac diet. This is less due to absence of gluten and more due to the fact that most gluten containing foods are unhealthy and contain a number of useless calories. Getting rid of such foods will help you eat a balanced diet which will work towards normalizing your weight.
  • According to FDA standards, foods which contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten is safe for consumption even for celiac. So, you need to read the ingredients list of all the products that you buy. Till you grow used to it and develop your new favorites in place of pizza and pasta, shopping will be a completely new experience and definitely somewhat time taking.
  • A number of gluten free products have been launched in the market including gluten free beer called Omission which is brewed from sorghum and gluten free pizza by Domino’s. However, gluten free is not synonymous to healthy. If you replace gluten containing foods with other substitutes with useless fats and calories, your lifestyle is bound to suffer. Instead, you will have to choose your food items carefully so that it is good for your overall health.

In conclusion it must be said that whether you suffer from celiac disease or not, following a celiac diet is bound to affect your lifestyle. Most of these effects will be positive.

You will eat healthier; your weight will be stabilized and physical symptoms like fatigue, headache, gas, diarrhea, constipation etc will disappear. However, there are many pitfalls even within a celiac diet. So, you need to choose your food items carefully in order to fully enjoy the benefits of a celiac diet.