Gluten free diet

If you have been watching television, reading magazines, surfing the internet or talking to friends over the past few years, chances are you have heard of all the many dietary restrictions that seem to have cropped up recently. Some people have food allergies and are unable to eat foods like peanuts or shellfish, or even eat things that have been cooked in proximity to peanuts or shellfish. Other people are on special diets either due to health problems or religious or social beliefs. Some people are vegans, for example, because they do not believe in eating products from animals. Other people do not go quite to that extreme, but become vegetarians, refusing to eat meat (and sometimes dairy products.) People of some religions do not eat pork, while people of other religions do not eat beef. There are a world of dietary restrictions out there, and one of the more recent popular diets is the gluten free diet.

The gluten free diet is not generally a lifestyle choice or a religious belief, instead it is diet that is necessary for people with a certain type of medical condition. The medical condition that necessitates a gluten free diet is called Celiac disease. The bodies of people with celiac disease lack the necessary functioning to process a protein called gluten. Unfortunately, gluten is found in some of the world’s most common staple foods, namely wheat, barley and rye. These staples are used, of course, to make breads, a common dietary staple all over the world. When people with celiac disease eat gluten, their bodies think that they are being attacked. This causes the immune system to rebel when the gluten reaches the small intestine, inciting a white blood cell response. This response – the equivalent of calling in an army battalion to subdue a small group of travelers – causes damage to the small intestine. This damage, in turn, means that the small intestine has more trouble absorbing the nutrients the body needs from food. This chain reaction means that anybody who suffers from celiac disease must eat a gluten free diet or risk irreparably harming their digestive system.

Gluten free diets are not without their own irritations and limitations. For example, we all know that bread is made of wheat, but did you think about the fact that pizza crust, tortillas, crackers and other foods are all made of wheat? Further, because of the way they are processed alongside wheat, oats – which are not normally harmful to people with celiac disease, can be difficult for someone on a gluten free diet to eat, as well.

The main point of the gluten free diet is to avoid all grains. Aside from the aforementioned wheat, barley and rye, this includes avoiding graham flour, bulgur wheat, durham wheat, matzo meal, spelt, and many other different types of wheat that can found all over the world. A good rule of thumb is to avoid all wheat types of foods unless they are specifically labeled as part of a gluten free diet. This can include foods such as cereals, pasta, cookies, soups, sauces, beer, candy, salad dressing, lunch meats and more.

As you can probably see, eating a gluten free diet can be extremely difficult. Very few convenience foods – unless specifically marked “gluten free” on their labeling – fall into the gluten free diet. Products marked gluten free have been manufactured and processed in special facilities where the products cannot, in any way whatsoever, come into contact with wheat. Fortunately, as celiac disease becomes better known, more and more manufacturers are working to provide tasty and nutritious gluten free solutions for their customers.

Last updated on Aug 10th, 2010 and filed under Healthy Eating. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

1 Response for “Gluten free diet”

  1. I would go one step further and recommend avoiding all grains. Including corn, sorghum, etc. By definition, all grains (even the proposed gluten free ones) contain gluten. Recent research studies have indicated that people with celiac disease react to multiple types of glutens found in grain (not just gliadin as is commonly thought). If you are interested in the scientific studies on this you can find the at Gluten Free Society’s website.
    All the best,
    Dr. O

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