Gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, oats, and barley and their derivatives, causes celiac disease. Sufferers of celiac disease experience changes in their small intestine and often a loss of their ability to absorb crucial nutrients. Up to 1 million Americans are intolerant to gluten.
Celiac disease is a digestive disorder that is triggered by eating the protein gluten, which is found in the grains wheat, rye, and barley. There is no cure for the disease, but it can be controlled through strict avoidance of foods that contain gluten.
Many people with celiac disease remain undiagnosed, since the symptoms are often similar to other conditions. Physicians often misdiagnose celiacs as having illnesses such as irritable bowel syndrome, food allergies, chronic fatigue, anorexia, or malnutrition.
Probiotics have been shown to reduce the toxicity of gluten. Studies have shown a benefit of probiotic bacteria that are added to gluten-containing breads. They may be especially beneficial in those with celiac disease, potentially protecting against cross-contamination exposure.
Other Illnesses Affected by Gluten
People with many other conditions can also benefit from a gluten-free diet, including ADD, multiple sclerosis, lactose intolerance (up to 48 percent of people with celiac are also lactose intolerant), autism, chronic fatigue, indigestion, and malnutrition.
Buying Gluten-Free Products
People who need to eat a gluten-free diet may eat rice, corn, potatoes, all kinds of vegetables and fruit, eggs, cheese, milk, meat and fish, nuts, seeds, and beans. Read product labels carefully to ensure the products are not cooked with wheat flour, batter, breadcrumbs, or sauces.
Research shows celiac disease progresses faster in men, depleting more nutrients and damaging bones. Dr. Alessio Fasano, medical director at the University of Maryland’s Center for Celiac Research, says celiac disease is a leading cause of male osteoporosis.
What makes eating a gluten-free diet tricky is that there is a long list of forbidden ingredients (e.g., dextrin and malto-dextrin, citric acid), which are often snuck into processed foods.
As a simple rule, processed and prepared food is off limits unless it is marked gluten-free. However, there is no federal regulation that defines the term “gluten-free” used in the labeling of foods.
The Essential Gluten-Free Grocery Guide is a full-color publication designed to help you find gluten-free foods. From brand-name ice cream to private-label canned soup, this product guide covers more than 20,000 gluten-free foods found in popular grocery stores.
Other products with gluten include:
Lip stick/lip balm (use Burt’s Bees beeswax lip balm)
Sunscreen (use Banana Boat children’s sunscreen)
Children’s stickers and price tags
Stamps and envelopes
Washing machine detergent (use Arm & Hammer baking soda detergent)
Soaps and shampoos
Toothpaste and mouthwash (use Tom’s of Maine toothpaste)
Gluten can be hidden in caramel coloring, modified food starch, and “flavor enhancers.” Check labels before you buy.
Eating Out Gluten Free
Restaurants that advertise organic foods are more likely to accommodate food allergies. Check out a restaurant online first. Many chain restaurants offer gluten-free menus, but you’ll have to ask to get it. Call ahead if you’re not sure. The best time to reach a restaurant is about 2 p.m.—between the lunch and dinner rush.
Check out Celiac Chicks — a great website that bills itself as the cool guide to a hip and healthy celiac lifestyle. It offers great tips, restaurant suggestions, and a list of gluten-free bloggers.
Information and communication are crucial for celiac patients when it comes to eating out, purchasing foods, or even taking medications, because something as simple and small as a tiny piece of crouton can cause hours of suffering. Diane Craig, chairwoman of the Sacramento Celiac Sprue Association, says while many people have heard of the disease, misconceptions remain about what celiac patients can eat— including the idea that just a little gluten won’t hurt.
Any Thai restaurant without Chinese or Japanese food on the menu will likely accommodate you easily. Oaxacan food (Mexican food from the region of Oaxaca) is often made from scratch. As with any restaurant that serves sauces and salsas, ask if flour is used in the sauce/salsa/mole. Also ask if the oil for chips is also used to fry foods that contain flour.