It’s become widely popular to go gluten-free, and if you’ve never looked into it before, you may have a lot of questions. Maybe you’ve wondered what gluten is, why someone would avoid it, or why naturally gluten-free foods are labeled gluten-free (even though it seems unnecessary).
What is gluten and Why would you avoid it?
Gluten is a protein which is found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale (a cross between rye and wheat). It seems innocent enough, but this protein can be detrimental for those with Celiac Disease. If a person with Celiac Disease does not follow the diet strictly, it can cause damage to the small intestine, and long-term avoidance of a gluten-free diet may even lead to cancer.
While it’s a must for people diagnosed with Celiac Disease, it can also be beneficial for people who may have a gluten sensitivity. The sensitivity may show similar symptoms to Celiac Disease, without the damaging effects to the small intestine. These symptoms can include: depression, chronic fatigue, headaches, joint pain, abdominal pain, gastrointestinal issues, and more. But avoiding gluten can cause these symptoms to disappear.
How do you go gluten-free?
Gluten-free isn’t as simple as just avoiding pastas and breads. It’s more complicated than that. It will take some patience, creativity, and know how. But you can do it, and it will get easier.
In the beginning of adopting a gluten-free diet, don’t be surprised if you get frustrated, or avoid eating out. Maintaining the diet and eating at restaurants may seem overwhelming at first. But the more you adjust to the diet and become knowledgeable, it will become easier and less irritating.
What you’ll need to know as you venture into gluten-free territory, is that you need to get familiar with ingredient lists. Make time to check and see if any of the ingredients are dangerous. The next thing you need to be aware of is cross-contamination. This is especially true for those with Celiac Disease, where even a small crumb can cause a reaction. So, make sure to avoid sharing condiments where a utensil was double dipped and use a toaster free of gluten contaminants. When you go out to eat, make sure that the food is prepared in a way that avoids any possible cross contamination. You can ask your server or the restaurant manager to ensure your safety. When you’re purchasing naturally gluten-free products, such as oatmeal, it’s important that it say gluten-free, to avoid any possible cross contamination during manufacturing.
While it may not seem enticing at first look, going gluten-free can be a life-saver (literally in some cases). You’ll find various gluten-free products to replace your once beloved gluten-filled foods, and plenty of naturally gluten-free foods such as veggies and fruits to fill your plate. And after time, the gluten-free diet will get easier, you’ll learn to adapt to a new way of life and live healthier and happier. It just takes a little practice, some creativity, and the willingness to give it a go.