Diet plans are no stranger to buzzwords, but one word has received more attention than any other over the past several months: gluten. News outlets, health gurus, and food companies alike have chosen this highly marketable term as the linchpin of slow news days, “miracle” cures, and new product lines respectively.
Of course, the problem with these sources, is that each stands to gain from repeating the word “gluten” until it loses all meaning. For those with actual gluten intolerance, or those willing to chase down any health fad, this is an unfortunate development.
So what do you need to know about this “new” term? More importantly, what do you need to know about this everyday substance that’s so pervasive in our diet? Here’s a look at the facts.
What is Gluten and Why Does it Matter to the Human Body?
A blend of two proteins–gliadin and glutenin–found in wheat endosperm, gluten is the key substance that helps to bind or glue a mixture together, giving it doughy consistency and an elastic texture, according to Live Science. Gluten provides the distinct texture that consumers have come to expect from certain foods, and for this reason can be found in a great number of products. The substance itself is found in the mature seed of cereal grasses, which include wheat, barley, rye, spelt, triticale, kamut, farro, and einkorn, according to U.S. News and World Report.
Gluten Sensitive, Gluten Intolerant and Celiac Disease: Do You Fit Into any of These Categories?
Gluten sensitivity might sound like a less severe form of gluten intolerance. However, the two conditions are actually the same and create severely uncomfortable effects in the body if gluten is ingested.
Some of these effects include gas, bloating, abdominal discomfort and pain, diarrhea and constipation. However, these are only the less severe symptoms associated with gluten intolerance.
For those with celiac disease, the consequences of ingesting gluten can be far more severe. For sufferers of this prevalent disease, lack of treatment can lead to iron deficiency anemia, early onset osteoporosis, infertility, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation.
Finding out Whether or Not You Have Celiac Disease
It is difficult to say when most people develop celiac disease but, according to Medical News Today, middle infancy is when it begins to present. Whether an infant or an adult, symptoms such may include chronic diarrhea, weight loss, and fatigue.
However, an absence of these symptoms may be more dangerous and is known to occur in many, especially in children. Continued consumption of foods that contain gluten may lead to long-term denial of vital nutrients during the developmental stages of life.
Since you may not experience any warning signs–or they might express themselves only mildly–it is important to rely on your dietician / nutritionist for identification. Informing your physician about bouts of fatigue, unexplained weight loss, and anemia, coupled with an accurate recounting of your family medical history, can help identify the disease before further damage occurs.
10 Things to Know About a Healthy Gluten-Free Diet
Fortunately for those subject to this disease, there is an abundance of good news. A healthy and happy lifestyle is not only attainable, but feasible with appropriate dietary considerations. Here’s a look at you need to know:
- Starting with a Clean Slate Takes You Far. Clearing out your kitchen of all questionable items is the best way to help you avoid gluten, especially if you are still unclear about which foods contain gluten or not and haven’t yet become a nutrition label reading aficionado.
- Becoming a Nutrition Label Reading Aficionado Gives You a Huge Advantage. You have to read labels or simply eat whole foods when you commit to eating gluten-free foods. If you have any questions, consult your dietician / nutritionist or a reliable health source on the Internet.
- Staying Fresh is the Way to Be Gluten-Free. Visit your produce, meat, fish, and poultry sections of your grocery store. Nuts and seeds are also a safe bet for those with gluten intolerance and celiacs disease.
- Looking Out for Gluten-Free Labeled Products Offers You a Handy Short-Cut. As more and more savvy shoppers, in touch with their bodies, become aware of gluten intolerance and commit to eating gluten-free, food manufacturers and their marketing departments have caught on and started marketing directly to the gluten intolerant.
- You Aren’t Giving Up Food Groups; You Are Expanding Your Palate. The thought of giving up pizza, sandwiches and other modern delights may sound miserable. However, many restaurants and companies now make gluten-free alternatives, opening the menu to even the most staunch sufferers..
- Gluten-Free Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Low Carb. You aren’t necessarily looking to eliminate or even reduce carbohydrates when eating for celiac’s disease; instead, you need something that keeps your body running efficiently with healthy carbs.
- You May Not Need to Jettison Gluten. The Celiac Disease Foundation reports that only about 1 in 133 people, or just 1%, actually suffer from celiac disease. Confirm the exact extent of your condition with your physician before removing gluten entirely.
- Not All Grains Are Off the Table. Super grains such as quinoa can still make its way into your dishes without repercussions, along with buckwheat, millet, and amaranth.
- Consider Your Cream Soups. When making cream soups, one of the key ingredients is roux, which is a flour-like substance and does contain gluten. Do you reading when choosing your soups and avoid making an easy, and unfortunate, mistake.
- Weight Loss is Not a Given. Just like any other “diet,” weight loss involves calculations based on calories taken in versus those burned, barring any metabolic-specific conditions, which gluten intolerance and celiac disease are not.
With a little research, and a bit of reading, the gluten intolerant need not suffer. Avoid the buzz words, remember the facts, and enjoy a happy, healthy life with or without gluten.