Gluten Free 101

Gluten Free Eating

Gluten is a protein compound normally found in bread products, including pasta and beer. During bread production, gluten adds structure and integrity to the dough, giving it its familiar shape and feel. Gluten is also an additive in many food items where you wouldn’t necessarily expect it. Ice cream, lunch meat, salad dressing, candy, and breakfast cereals all potentially contain gluten as a filler. Although gluten is perfectly natural, a small percentage of people exhibit an extreme intolerance to the substance.

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder triggered by the gluten found in wheat, rye, and barley. An autoimmune disease occurs when the body’s immune system reacts to an otherwise harmless entity. Scientists don’t fully understand what causes autoimmune disorders, but genetics likely play a role. In the case of Celiac disease, the ingestion of gluten causes irritation in the lining of the small intestine. Stomach ache, cramps, bloating, and diarrhea are all typical symptoms. Because the irritated bowels don’t absorb nutrients properly, malnutrition and weight loss are secondary symptoms of long-term, untreated Celiac disease.

The Gluten Free Diet

For those battling Celiac disease, a gluten free diet is the foundation of a healthy and symptom free life. Removing gluten completely from the diet may be daunting at first, but is the only guaranteed method of eliminating the disease. Fortunately, most food products today feature prominent labeling that indicates the absence of gluten. With creativity and practice, a gluten free diet can be as satisfying and full of variety as a non-restrictive diet.

If you’re on a gluten free diet, then food isn’t the only thing you need to be careful with. Certain household products also contain gluten as a binding agent. Toothpaste, play dough, lip balm, and cosmetics also typically contain gluten. However, don’t use Celiac disease as an excuse not to brush your teeth. You doctor or pharmacists can recommend safe alternatives to products known to contain gluten.

High Protein Diets

A diet rich in protein offers several benefits, including higher energy levels and a greater feeling of fullness after meals. People seeking to lose weight often succumb to the sensation of hunger, but protein can hold the appetite in check longer than carbohydrate-laden foods. Celiac disease sufferers often find they must increase their protein intake as a consequence of avoiding gluten. Dieters should simply be cautious and not increase their consumption of cholesterol or saturated fats as they increase their protein. Participation in sports or strength training may also call for higher protein intake, as your body needs protein to repair and rebuild muscle fibers.

For Everyone Else

Otherwise healthy people have no need to restrict the amount of gluten in the diet. However, gluten is quite often found in foods that are rich, fatty, and somewhat lacking in nutritional value. For people looking to restore balance to their diet, it can’t hurt to cut back on bread, pasta, and other glutinous foods.

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