Gluten-free Food: A Little Background
Gluten free Cookies Rock!!
What is Gluten anyway?
Gluten is a by-product of wheat (barley and rye as well) which a growing part of the population are learning about firsthand. The reaction caused by gluten, which causes a wide range of symptoms mostly concerning the small intestine and stomach is commonly known as Celiac disease. Celiac disease is the condition that causes the small intestine and stomach to stop absorbing nutrients from food. This causes problems with your stomach ranging through many levels of pain and gas as well as weight loss.
Are there tests for Celiac Disease?
Absolutely. Several different kinds of tests exist, however, if you are already on a gluten-free diet, no test will be useful in detecting the disease.
Is there a cure??
No, there is no cure for celiac disease besides going on a gluten free diet. If you've had celiac disease for a long time, there is a chance that going on a gluten-free diet will not help you as the damage may already be too great.
Is this a weight-loss diet?
No, this is not a diet for weight-loss. Celiac disease can cause weight-loss but not healthy weight loss. Despite some recent coverage on television concerning a Gluten-free diet as a weight loss technique, it isn't. In fact, it's the opposite.
What's the problem with gluten free food??
To begin with, the first attempts at gluten-free food were not all that good. Much of the food was chalky tasting. Gluten does things to dough that helps the consistency and texture of the food you make out of it. Without gluten, a proper substitute needs to be included in dough that will help it cook well and not react negatively with people who have celiac disease. Most gluten free foods contain xanthan gum, guar gum or both in order to help with this.
As a society, the food sources of the United States are based on wheat and wheat is a cheap filler found in many foods - even foods you would never expect to find it in. People who need gluten-free should always check the ingredients. It is a little known fact that gluten-free content is NOT regulated in the United States. This means that a company can call a product gluten free even though it might have small amounts of wheat in it. If you react strongly to any amount of gluten, this would cause you problems immediately.
In order to get around some of the taste issues, many gluten-free desserts have quite a bit more sugar, and in some cases fat, in them. This certainly makes them taste much better, however, this could lead to weight gain if you don't watch what you eat. Moderation and portion control is the key here. I've seen everything imaginable for dessert however so shop around and read the nutrition labels on everything.
What other issues are there?
In my experience so far, I have found that almost every person who needs gluten-free is also allergic to something else. Some need dairy free, some need egg-free: the list is too long and complicated since some people need several of these options. The best way to handle this is to read the ingredients on everything and take warnings seriously. Many products, citing the needs of many people who have simple food allergies, note when the product is made on shared equipment that could have traces of, for example, nuts. This is very helpful to those people and to people with celiac disease as well. Almost all gluten-free products have contamination warnings like "This product was made in a gluten-free faciltiy." or that it wasn't which might cause you some concern. Be careful and read everything...
What is casein and does that affect people with celiac disease?
Casein is a milk by-product. Casein and gluten are related to the dietary needs of people with autism. It has been found that a gluten-free, casein-free diet helps autistic people function better. In my experience, there aren't many products that satisfy both needs but a few exist. Casein doesn't affect people with celiac disease, however, many people who are gluten-free are also lactose or dairy-free which would usually eliminate casein as well from their diet.
Gluten-free food does cost more than regular food. However, do some shopping around. Some of the prices I have found online for gluten free products is absurd. Pizza for $25? There's no need for that. Gluten-free dough or pizza crusts can be found for a fraction of that price and if you make your own sauce anyway (as many gluten-free people do), that is a much better way to go.
Rice or Corn?
This question stems from people who love pasta. Which tastes better, rice or corn? In my opinion, unless you are allergic to corn, the corn pasta tends to cook better and usually tastes closer to regular pasta. Rice pasta (both brown and white rice) can be gritty or pastey unless it's cooked just right. You might want to try several brands of whichever you choose though. Just like regular pasta, some are thicker than others and quality varies.
Well this is just personal opinion since everyone has their own ideas on what's good and what isn't. Below is a list of brands I have found to have a good product line (and taste!):
DeRosa Natural Fine Foods: http://derosafoods.com/
Katz Gluten-free Bakery: http://www.katzglutenfree.com/
Gillian's Foods: http://www.gilliansfoods.com/
Glutino Food Group: http://www.glutino.com/
Udi's Gluten free Foods: http://udisglutenfree.com/
I hope this little hub has helped you understand gluten-free foods and celiac disease a little better. And for those of you who are gluten-free, there are good choices out there for you so don't be dismayed. Be patient and look around.