UNDERSTANDING A GLUTEN-FREE DIET
Gluten is a protein found in cereal grains. Cereal grains are plants such as wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten in foods acts as a glue. It holds foods together and gives dough its stretch. Gluten is a source of protein. Gluten is sometimes added to other foods.
In the past few years, many people have stopped eating gluten. Usually, people who stopped eating gluten did so because they felt better without it. Some people stopped eating gluten because a doctor diagnosed them with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
About 1 out of 100 people have celiac disease. Celiac disease is also called celiac sprue. Celiac disease is caused when a person’s immune system attacks part of their own body. This is called an autoimmune disease. In celiac disease, the immune system attacks the small intestine. This causes inflammation of the small intestine. Patients with celiac disease may have abdominal pain, bloating, or diarrhoea. Damage to the lining of the intestine can prevent food from being absorbed properly. The lowest amount of daily gluten that can cause damage to the lining of the intestine is 10 to 15 mg/day. One slice of bread contains 1600 mg of gluten. A blood test is needed for a doctor to diagnose celiac disease. Celiac disease cannot be cured, but the symptoms can be avoided by eating a gluten-free diet.
People who are sensitive to gluten have symptoms when they eat gluten, but they do not have a blood test that shows celiac disease. People with gluten sensitivity might have abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhoea like people with celiac disease. They might also have headaches and fatigue. These symptoms are improved by eating a gluten-free diet.
Gluten is found in foods that contain wheat, barley, or rye. Because of this, baked goods, such bread, cookies, and pizza, usually contain gluten. In baked goods, gluten makes the dough stretchy and provides a structure that allows the dough to rise. Extra gluten is sometimes added to dough to make the food chewier. Gluten can also be found in other kinds of foods. Gluten can be used to make artificial (imitation) meats. It can be found in unexpected places, such as soy sauce, beer, ice cream, and some soups. In these foods, gluten is used as a thickener.
In some countries, foods with gluten must be labelled. In the united states, there is no law that foods with gluten must be labelled.
The easiest way to avoid gluten is to eat non-processed foods. Meat, fruits, vegetables, fish, and nuts are all naturally gluten-free. Dairy products like milk are also naturally gluten-free. There are some grains that are gluten-free, such rice, millet, quinoa, soy, corn, oats, buckwheat, amaranth, sorghum, and teff (an ethiopian cereal grain). Processed foods (foods that come already made in a box or can) can contain gluten, so reading the label is very important.
- Do talk to your health care provider before you stop eating gluten. Your health care provider may want to test you for celiac disease before you stop eating gluten.
- Do read food labels carefully. Gluten can hide in unexpected places.
- Don’t assume that a gluten-free diet will help you lose weight. Gluten-free foods can have lots of calories.
- Don’t assume that a gluten-free diet is a healthier diet. If you don’t have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, a diet without gluten may not be any better for you.