What is gluten?
Gluten is the protein found in wheat, barley, rye and related wheat species such as spelt and kamut. It helps baked goods keep their form and chewy texture and is also added to other food items more and more, both for consistency and taste purposes.
Helpful Hint: Buckwheat, contrary to its name, is not actually wheat and does not contain gluten.
What foods contain gluten?
The obvious foods that contain gluten include foods made from a flour base. Wheat, barley, and rye based breads, cookies, pastries, and bagels all contain gluten. However, hidden sources of gluten are abundant in many packaged goods from soy sauce to spice mixes, to breath mints. More and more companies are voluntarily labeling their products as gluten free and some even go through a gluten free certification process.
Here is a short list of foods that can have hidden gluten:
- Luncheon meat
- Blue cheese
- Gravy and gravy powder
- Baked beans
- Self basting turkeys
- Seasoning Mixes
- Instant coffee
- Brown rice syrup
- Potato chips
- Soy sauce
- Hot Chocolate
- Salad dressings
- Curry powder
- White pepper
- Malt vinegar
- Breath mints
- Oats (while naturally gluten free, there is a risk of contamination through harvesting, milling, and processing; Udi’s only uses certified gluten free oats) (1) (2)
For a full list of unsafe ingredients, click here:
Who should eat a gluten free diet?
Some people must eat a gluten free diet because they’ve been diagnosed with Celiac Disease or Gluten Sensitivity, in which the only cure is a gluten free diet. Others eat gluten free because they suspect gluten is causing them undesirable symptoms that they wish to avoid. Still others have learned that gluten can cause inflammation and therefore they seek to eliminate it from their diet. No matter what your situation, a gluten free lifestyle may be of benefit to you.
Who can get Celiac Disease or have a Gluten Sensitivity?
The short answer is: anyone. Some are more predisposed to have this disease or intolerance than others, especially if a family member has been diagnosed. It has been noted that northern European countries, specifically Nordic countries, as well as Italy and Ireland have a higher rate of Celiac Disease, and approximately 1 out of every 133 Americans have Celiac Disease. (7)
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder where gluten triggers the immune system to attack the lining of the small intestine. Over time, Celiac Disease can cause malabsorption, leading to a wide range of health problems such as iron and mineral deficiencies, osteoporosis, liver disease, infertility, neurological disorders, and even some forms of cancer. (3, 4)
For more information, click here:
What is Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity?
Those with a non-celiac gluten sensitivity do not experience any damage to the lining of the small intestine, unlike those with Celiac Disease, but rather can experience a broader range of reactions to gluten.
What are the symptoms of gluten sensitivities?
- Abdominal discomfort or pain
- Skin problems
- Lethargy and tiredness
- Attention-deficit disorder and hyperactivity,
- Muscle and joint pain. (6)
For more information, click here:
Can eating gluten free help athletes perform better?
Many athletes find that they have fewer digestive issues during training and competition if they avoid gluten. Why is that? After a hard workout, people tend to experience some gastrointestinal distress. Athletes who have gone gluten free say that this distress is significantly lessened for them when on a gluten free diet, and disappears altogether when sugary drink intake is limited as well. Gluten is also a large cause of inflammation in the body, and so eliminating it will help reduce inflammation. This can help both digestion and athletic performance.
Loose Labeling Terminology
By Danna Korn, Living Gluten Free for Dummies, 2nd Edition
It would be great if you could just read a label and know what ingredients are in a product. Isn’t that the point of having ingredient listings? But unfortunately, labels aren’t always telling the entire story, and some ingredients aren’t consistent; sometimes they have gluten and sometimes they don’t.
A law called the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) that took effect in 2006 has helped – a lot. This law requires clear labeling of all foods that contain any of the top eight allergens – wheat, milk, eggs, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, and soybeans. This means manufacturers must clearly identify wheat and all of its derivatives on food labels.
With the law in place, knowing which foods are definitely off-limits because they contain wheat is much easier. Reading labels and knowing what’s in a product is much more definitive, because wheat is really the bulk of what you’re avoiding on a gluten-free diet.
Although wheat and its derivatives are now called out on all labels, you still need to watch for other gluten-containing grains (barley, rye, and cross-contaminated oats) and their derivatives, and realize that they can be hidden in flavorings and additives.
Malt usually comes from barley, and products that use malt as a flavoring don’t necessarily call it out on the label. Natural flavorings for instance, may contain barley malt but be listed as ‘natural flavorings’ on a label.
What is Gluten Anyway and Where Is It?
By Danna Korn, Living Gluten Free for Dummies, 2nd edition
Gluten has a couple of definitions; one is technically correct but not commonly used, and the other is commonly used but not technically correct. Here’s the common definition: Gluten is a mixture of proteins in wheat, rye, and barley. Oats don’t have gluten, but may be contaminated, so they’re forbidden on a strict gluten-free diet, too.
You can find lots of information about what you can and can’t eat on a gluten-free diet at www.celiac.com or other websites. But you need to have a general idea of what kinds of food have gluten in them so you know what to avoid. Foods with flour in them (white or wheat) are the most common culprits when you’re avoiding gluten. The following are obvious gluten-glomming foods:
- Cookies, cakes, and most other baked goods
But along with these culprits come not-so-obvious suspects too, like licorice, many (read ‘most’) cereals, and natural flavorings. When you’re gluten-free, you get used to reading labels, calling manufacturers, and digging a little deeper to know for sure what you can and can’t eat.
You have to do without these foods, but you really don’t have to do without. There’s a subtle but encouraging difference. Food manufacturers make delicious gluten-free versions of just about every food imaginable these days.
Going Gluten Free
Musing of a GF Housewife – Jo-Lynne
Posted on June 25, 2011
When I decided to go gluten-free, it wasn’t because I’d been diagnosed with celiac disease, although I’ve been told that my symptoms bear a striking resemblance, but it was a personal decision based on a lot of factors. Basically it was an experiment. Assuming that gluten was irritating my gut, we wanted to see if going gluten-free would allow my chronic tummy troubles to improve and my typically low iron levels to normalize.
It took me months to work up to it. Even after my doctor ran a test that concluded that I had a gluten sensitivity, I still balked.
You have to understand, I have never met a carb I don’t like. I live for bread and cake and muffins and sweet rolls and pizza and . . .
When I’d consider going off gluten, my mind would run wild with the what ifs and the what will I do whens. I looked ahead to years of birthday parties and pizza nights and social events and holidays with no. gluten.
No cake, no pizza, no sweet rolls, no muffins, no dinner rolls, no fresh slice of homemade bread still warm from the oven and slathered with butter . . .
But I was also tired of living with stomach discomfort, brain fog, nausea and iron deficiency. So finally one day last fall, I decided to bite the bullet.
I had one last hurrah at my son’s birthday dinner — lasagna and homemade garlic bread and caesar salad loaded with croutons and chocolate birthday cake. I gorged. And I woke up in the night, my body overheated, feeling nauseous and miserable, and I wondered if this would happen once I gave up gluten.
(It hasn’t happened except once when I over indulged on corn chips. I have a feeling that I also have a sensitivity to corn.)
The next day I decided to go cold turkey. I didn’t make it easy on myself. I make homemade bread every week for my children’s sandwiches, and I continue to do that. I often make pancakes or waffles for them for breakfast. I continue to do that too. I chose to start my gluten free journey during the month of November and had to endure various holiday parties and celebrations watching everyone devour homemade yeast rolls, delectable cakes and pies, crackers with their cheese and much more while I went without.
But the amazing thing about it was, even though those things looked good to me, I didn’t crave them. I never wavered in my resolve. Once I made an announcement on my blog and decided to commit to going gluten-free, that was that. I never looked back.
Within a few days, I felt better than I have in years. People often ask, how soon did you notice a difference? Without hesitation, I always say, within 24 hours. It’s the truth. I felt lighter, my gut felt happy (I know no other way to describe it) and odd symptoms that I had never associated with gluten like brain fog and dizziness disappeared.
I decided to write down every possible symptom that was bothering me, in case it was related to gluten. I know how easy it is to forget about symptoms after they’re gone, and I didn’t want to fall into that trap. It’s already hard enough that not everyone takes this seriously. I need to make sure that I take it seriously, that I don’t forget how much better I feel living this way. And if the symptoms don’t go away? I’ll have to try something else. But I decided to give the gluten-free experiment 100% for at least 3 months before I re-evaluate.
The hardest thing about being gluten-free is that you really can’t have even a trace of gluten if you a) want to determine if you are truly sensitive and b) want your body to completely heal. The theory is, when you have food sensitivities, as long as you have those irritants in your body, no matter how few, your body can’t fully heal. I realize there are different views on the food sensitivity issue, but I look at it this way, at least it can’t hurt. As Nora Gedgaudas says, “No one ever had a gluten deficiency.”
This morning marks four months since I went gluten free. I have not knowingly eaten gluten since. I just pulled out my list of symptoms, and I can decidedly say that within the past four months, my skin has improved, the gassiness and bloating I used to experience with regularity is gone, my heartburn is much improved, and the brain fog and occasional dizzy spells are gone.
I have yet to get my iron levels tested, but the way I feel right now, I don’t ever want to go back to eating gluten. In fact, everyone I meet who has any type of ailment, I tell them to try going off gluten. I’m like the gluten-free evangelist. I know not everyone is sensitive to it, but I do think we as a culture eat way too much. Now if I could get myself off of sugar, I’d be all set!