Could You Have a Gluten Intolerance?
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in barley, wheat, and rye. It is the reason dough has an elastic texture and it helps food hold it's shape. Gluten is found in many different kinds of food. While you can maintain a healthy diet eating foods that contain gluten, celiac disease and gluten intolerance is becoming more and more common.
Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance
As much as 15% of the population in the US has celiac disease or gluten intolerance and almost 99% of these cases are never diagnosed.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder, the body reacts to gluten because it is not able to absorb the food containing it. Celiac disease can cause pain, gas, nausea and other uncomfortable symptoms when you try to ingest foods containing gluten. You don't necessarily have to have celiac disease to have a gluten-intolerance. You can experience the same symptoms as someone with the disease and in most cases can alleviate these symptoms by cutting gluten from your diet.
A doctor can confirm celiac disease or a gluten-intolerance by doing a blood test or biopsy of the small intestine. If you have either of these then eating a gluten-free diet can stop these symptoms form occurring.
Symptoms of Celiac disease and/or gluten intolerance include:
- mood swings
- joint pain and/or swelling
- hormone imbalances such as PMS
- acne breakouts
- fatigue or foggy thinking
- keratosis pilaris, or chicken skin (tiny rash-like bumps that usually appear on the back of the arms)
If you experience any of these after eating a meal that contains gluten you may want to see your doctor about getting tested.
Treating a Gluten Intolerance
As of now the only way to treat a gluten intolerance is complete avoidance of gluten. People that are diagnosed with celiac disease need to avoid gluten completely for life to avoid symptoms. Removing gluten from your diet for good allows your intestines to heal and usually ends all symptoms associated with the disease.
There are more options than most would think for eating gluten-free. Most products that are gluten- free usually say so on the packaging, this means that the products are completely free of gluten or contain so little that it wouldn't present a problem for someone who has an intolerance. It might seem difficult at first to adhere to a gluten-free diet as gluten is found in a lot of foods and a lot you wouldn't expect, but as you become used to it it will of course get easier. Most grocery stores even have a section dedicated specifically to gluten-free foods.
Tips to Eating Gluten-Free
- Ice cream, milk, and butter are all usually gluten free, but be aware that lactose intolerance is common in people with gluten intolerance and can cause the same symptoms.
- Real cheese is gluten-free, but processed cheeses usually contain gluten.
- Eggs, fish, and meat that is not breaded is gluten-free.
- Canola oil, olive oil, and sunflower oil are all gluten-free and safe to use in cooking.
- Avoid grain-based alcohols, go for beers made from gluten-free grains. Distillation removes gluten so any distilled alcohol is okay.
- Always check processed foods like salad dressing, ketchup and candies. These usually contain gluten so it's safer to make sure.
- Season mixes can sometimes contain gluten, pure one-ingredient spices are okay.
- All kinds of plain rice are gluten-free.
- Plain fruits and vegetables are gluten-free.
- Oats are sometimes okay, but it's best to check that these are specifically labelled gluten-free.
- Any foods that are fried in the same oil as foods that are breaded are not considered to be gluten-free.
- Most breading is not gluten free so be careful with things like breaded fried chicken and mozzarella sticks.
- Be aware of what the foods you eat are processed around. Cross-contamination can cause foods that would normally be gluten-free to be unsafe for someone with a gluten allergy.
This article is in no way meant to give medical advice it is only for information and suggestions. You should talk to your doctor if you believe you have a gluten intolerance.