After you are diagnosed with celiac disease , you will need to follow a gluten-free diet. Gluten, an important protein in wheat, rye, and barley grains, is what causes the immune system to attack the lining of the small intestine in this condition, so it should be avoided to control symptoms.
Gluten is found in many foods (including many you may not expect to find) and is extremely difficult to avoid. In fact, the learning curve on a gluten-free diet is equal to or greater than the learning curve on almost any other type of diet. You'll learn it eventually, but you'll learn more about food labeling and ingredient names than you ever thought you needed to know along the way.
You'll also make mistakes when you learn to eat gluten-free, and you may even experience them decades after dieting.
Do your best to learn about gluten-free foods to be successful on a gluten-free diet.
Why eat gluten-free?
Most people who follow a gluten-free diet do so because they use it to treat a certain health condition. The best-known medical condition that a gluten-free diet helps with is celiac disease. When gluten causes the immune system to attack the small intestine, symptoms of celiac disease follow, which can lead to malnutrition, anemia, osteoporosis, and many other potentially serious health consequences.
Health professionals advise people not to start eating gluten-free foods until they are tested for celiac disease. This is because you need to consume gluten for an accurate celiac disease test . It can be important to know exactly if you have celiac disease so that you can monitor any related medical conditions that may arise.
People with celiac disease must be gluten-free for life to alleviate symptoms and significantly reduce the risk of related diseases. Even small amounts of gluten can help the immune system and make intestinal healing more difficult.
Any food that contains wheat, barley, or rye contains gluten, which means that you should avoid breads, pasta, cakes, cookies, and most cereals. Gluten-containing cereals are commonly used in food because food manufacturers appreciate their characteristics. For example, wheat bread gets its distinctive nice stretch and texture from gluten, while tortillas and pasta clump together rather than fall apart from gluten protein.
However, bread, cereals, and pasta are just the tip of the gluten iceberg – gluten is an ingredient in many processed foods, perhaps even most. In some soups, the gluten grains act as thickeners, allowing producers and chefs to use less expensive ingredients like cream. Meanwhile, barley malt is often used as a sweetener in candy and cookies. And in beer and some forms of spirits, gluten grains are fermented to make alcoholic beverages.
Labeling and hidden gluten
The problem is that gluten can be hidden under various ingredient names on the product label. The soup can may be labeled "starch," which includes hidden gluten. "Natural flavored" candies may also contain gluten. It seems to be everywhere and you need to find out where it is hiding to avoid it.
The FDA does not require gluten to be disclosed on food labels, although manufacturers may voluntarily disclose it in accordance with the FDA's gluten-free labeling guidelines.
To use the FDA gluten-free label, the product must not contain any type of wheat, rye, barley or any cross between these grains. An ingredient derived from these grains should not be used in food unless it has been processed to remove gluten to less than 20 parts per million (ppm).
Many companies choose to make it easier for people to identify their gluten-free products without looking at the ingredients. They will use bold "gluten-free" labeling or a symbol denoting the product itself. The growing popularity of this diet has meant that all types of gluten-free foods can be found in many of the major grocery stores. You can also buy products that are specifically certified gluten-free by an independent organization whose standards may be even more stringent than those of the FDA.
Other manufacturers, such as Kraft Foods and Con Agra Foods, have a policy of constantly disclosing gluten-containing ingredients on food labels. In such cases, starch containing gluten will be referred to in the ingredient list as "starch (wheat)", while natural flavoring containing gluten may be referred to as "flavoring (barley)".
It is important to note that foods that do not contain gluten ingredients do not necessarily contain gluten, as they may be contaminated with gluten during processing.
How to start a gluten-free diet
This approach will not only help you avoid rookie mistakes as your body adjusts to giving up gluten, but it will also help you identify the cause of any symptoms if you add more food to your diet. Plus, it can help you get more of the nutrients you need, as packaged foods contain fewer vitamins and minerals than fresh whole foods.
Choice of food
Making any dietary changes can be challenging, especially if it means you need to avoid your favorite foods or start cooking in a new way. But as you get used to what you can eat, you can adjust and find new foods that you enjoy.
In fact, there is a fairly long list of safe and reliable gluten-free foods. If you choose to follow this diet by eating whole foods:
- All fresh fruits and vegetables are safe for a gluten-free diet (although anything that comes prepackaged may not be available).
- For the meat portion, opt for beef, poultry, pork, and seafood that do not contain marinades or other added ingredients. Basically, as long as it's simple, it's safe.
- Rice and quinoa are good starch options to add to your diet, just choose plain varieties with no added ingredients.
- Potatoes can also be a good option, although you will need to keep an eye on how they are cooked.
There are ways to make it easier to go gluten free. You can, for example, download a smartphone app to help you identify gluten-free foods and restaurants. You can also check your favorite grocery store to see if they have gluten-free listings or labels on their shelves.
While these rules apply to eating at home, it is more difficult when you want to go out to dinner. You will need to search for gluten-free dishes or carefully check your server. The good news is that gluten-free (GF) menu labeling has become much more common in recent years, with many restaurants offering gluten-free options for favorites like pasta.
Also consider bringing your own food to gatherings where you don't think the food provided is gluten-free enough for you.
You might be surprised to find that once you start eating gluten-free, your body will respond to even small amounts of gluten by reproducing old or even new symptoms that you didn't expect. These symptoms can include indigestion and fatigue . Unfortunately, this is quite common after exposure to gluten, and it can take a few days or more to feel like yourself again .
Trace sources can be hidden gluten ingredients or cross contamination in the food industry or kitchen.
Some people are more sensitive to traces of gluten and must be very careful. Regardless of where you end up on the sensitivity scale, you will need to do a few homework when you first stop consuming gluten to minimize the chance of “ accidental gluten. '' Specifically, you need:
- Decide whether to share the kitchen with family members who eat gluten, and (if so) set up that shared kitchen so you don't get sick.
- Eliminate gluten-containing foods and ingredients from your kitchen (or the part of the kitchen that you will only use when necessary).
- Replace kitchen utensils as they may contain traces of gluten grains (even if you have washed them thoroughly).
- Make everything else in your home gluten -free, including your bathroom (shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, and makeup), your workshop (drywall and craft supplies may contain gluten), and your medicine cabinet.
- Be very careful when dining out and eating food prepared by a friend or family member.
Buy packaged foods that are certified gluten-free and sealed by an independent certification body, such as the Gluten-Free Certification Program (GFGC). The words 'gluten free' must be clearly printed on the product label.
Get the word of drug information
With all of this in mind, eating gluten-free foods can seem a bit intimidating. Eating gluten-free whole foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry, and fish can be a good start .
In general, switching to a gluten-free diet and consuming gluten-free foods on a daily basis will give you a much better understanding of what is in your food and how it is produced. But improvements in health should justify all this additional research.
Frequently asked questions
Gluten is a group of seed proteins found in some grains. These include proteins found in all types of wheat (including durum wheat, erinkorn, emmer, farina, farro, graham, kamut, khorasan, semolina, spelled, and wheat), as well like rye, barley and triticale. Gluten is what gives bread its chewy texture and helps it hold its shape when lifted and baked.
Maybe, maybe not. Yes, if you have celiac disease, you should avoid eating gluten. But some people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other gastrointestinal problems assume they are intolerant to gluten and give it up. This can be problematic as it significantly reduces the intake of dietary fiber necessary for colon health and regularity. Also, many gluten-free foods are higher in fat than their gluten-free counterparts.
Foods made from or containing wheat, rye, barley, or triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rice) are high in gluten. This includes a wide range of products, including:
- Baked goods (such as cakes, cookies, pies, and muffins).
- Bread (including cookies, tortillas, and flour cakes)
- Breakfast items (such as pancakes, waffles, and pancakes)
- Cereals (including muesli)
- Cookies and croutons
Gluten is hidden in many foods, especially packaged and processed foods. This includes:
- Certain sweets (such as licorice and twizzlers)
- Over-the-counter medications and vitamin supplements.
- Meat substitutes (including veggie burgers and crab sticks)
- Pre-seasoned meat
- Processed meats (like hot dogs, cold cuts, and salami)
- Salad dressings (bottled and packaged)
- Seasoned fries and French fries
- Self-destruction of a bird
- Soups and sauces
- Soy sauce and miso
Eat more whole foods, such as gluten-free fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains like rice, oats, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, and amaranth. Always read the product label and learn the different terms used to describe wheat.