Gluten-free Eating Is Easy
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, spelt, oats, kamut, triticale and barley. This tiny molecule can be responsible for so many illnesses it is difficult to count them all. In fact, the New England Journal of Medicine has listed 55 “diseases” that are connected to eating gluten-containing foods.
Gluten sensitivity should not be confused with Celiac disease which is a severe autoimmune reaction to gluten, or with a wheat allergy which has it’s own specific antibodies. However, millions of people are suffering from undiagnosed gluten intolerance which wreaks havoc on their health.
Gluten containing grains were introduced into Europe in the Middle Ages and 30% of people of European descent carry the gene for Celiac that makes them susceptible to health issues from eating gluten. A sensitivity of intolerance to gluten can develop at any time in your life. It has a slow onset and such a broad range of symptoms that it can be very difficult to diagnose. Every person will experience a different combination and severity of health problems, including but not limited to:
- weight changes
- nutritional deficiencies
- poorly formed stools
- fat in the stools
- aching joins
- mood changes
- inability to concentrate
- brain fog
- cramps, tingling, numbness
- irregular menstrual cycles
- slow growth
- poor dental health
These complaints can often seem innocuous and unrelated to anything we have eaten, however, left unaddressed these can grow in severity and cause great damage to our various body systems. While it is always important to eat whole, nutritious food, it may be even more so during times of stress, trauma, surgery, infection and childbirth. These conditions have been shown to be possible triggers for new gluten sensitivity or can worsen the effects of an existing sensitivity.
What should you do if you suspect you may be sensitive to gluten? There are 3 ways of testing yourself:
- The skin prick test is where your skin is exposed to allergens and observed for signs of a reaction. This type of testing is most effective for detecting IgE antibodies. These types of reactions are immediate and severe such as with rashes, sudden digestive disturbances, anaphylaxis, etc.
- Allergy spot testing is used more for IgG reactions, or delayed onset. This test takes drops of blood from a finger prick and can detect sensitivity reactions to gluten and various other foods.
- The elimination diet can be used if the above tests don’t show any antibodies. Eliminate all gluten-containing foods from the diet for a minimum of 2 weeks (4-6 is better) will allow all gluten residues to leave the body. Upon reintoduction of gluten, observe any reaction at all that has not been noticed previously. If you eat gluten and no reaction occurs, wait 2 days and eat a good sized portion of gluten again. If still no reaction occurs, this is not likely to be the problem food. This testing method can be used to determine any food sensitivity.
What to do if you find you are sensitive to gluten? You must eliminate it from your diet completely by avoiding known grains as well as foods containing hidden sources:
veggie burgers, sausages, etc.
some vitamins, minerals and other supplements
personal hygeine products such as some shampoos, lipstick, toothpaste, soaps and sunscreen
stamps, envelopes, stickers
Learn to read food labels and ingredient lists, choose to prepare your own healthy, whole food meals or look to a health professional for guidance on how to create a meal plan that is right for you. This is the most effective way to ensure you are not eating hidden gluten. Yes, it is difficult in the beginning while shopping for and trying out new foods, but it does get easier. You will discover new foods you may not have eaten before, you will be cutting out a lot of processed junk foods that you shouldn’t be eating anyway and you will find a new, revitalized state of health! Speaking from experience, I know that waking each day feeling amazing becomes addictive and I rarely get cravings for the foods that caused me discomfort before. Many people with an intolerance can cut out the offending food for a period of time and later be able to eat small amounts of that food, but for most of us it is a life-long change that in my opinion is a great one!
Health and happiness,