Finding out more about what we put into our bodies can be very liberating and provides a better understanding of what fuels us. Sometimes, as much as we may love to eat something, our bodies don’t react to it well. One of those things for you might just be gluten. What exactly is gluten, and what are some of the reactions you can have to it? Gluten is classified as a family of storage proteins. You commonly find gluten in cereal grains, which include wheat, barley, and also rye. It is what gives certain foods that soft and chewy texture that we tend to love; however, it can also make certain people sick. Keep reading to learn more about living a gluten-free lifestyle.
The Rise Of The Gluten-Free Diet
When gluten proteins are heated, they start to stretch and trap gas – this is perfect for when you are making things like bread and pasta. Gluten is also frequently used in processed foods to help create a better texture and help retain moisture.
Gluten-free diets are becoming more and more popular. Some people might just choose this way of eating because they feel better generally from it, and others do it because they are unable to tolerate gluten, and their bodies are unable to process it.
If you aren’t sure what food in your cupboard or fridge contains gluten, this might give you a better idea. Whole wheat and bran both have gluten and couscous, semolina, bulgur, durum, wheat germ, and mir.
There are also more processed grain-based products that most likely have gluten in them, such as crackers, bread, pasta, cookies, pastries, and even some veggie burgers. It’s not only food that contains gluten, but beverages and sauces too.
Did you know that soy sauce contains gluten? Some salad dressings have gluten in them, which helps to make them thicker. Not only that, but there are broths and some spice blends that also contain gluten.
Gluten is a beneficial ingredient in the culinary world as it does help to thicken things up, such as sauces or gravies. You might also want to check out the wine you are drinking because this can also contain gluten, unfortunately.
Previously, eating a gluten-free diet was quite tricky, but it is becoming so much more accessible nowadays. Many gluten-free brands pop up all over that you can just buy off the shelf and ready to enjoy.
Most supermarkets will have a gluten-free section or even an aisle. You can also go to health stores to find these products that you can easily incorporate into your diet to eliminate gluten if necessary.
Many government health authorities have made it necessary to label gluten-free items, making it easier for us to find gluten-free options. Even though it does make this easier, it still might contain some forms of gluten.
Did you know the United States, EU, and Canada, consider a product gluten-free as long as there are less than 20 parts per million gluten in the product? This notion means that there could still be traces of gluten in your gluten-free items.
How was the gluten-free label amount decided? It was due to evidence suggesting that people who suffer from a gluten intolerance most likely won’t react to this amount of gluten present in the product.
Some countries have set this limit much lower and go as low as three parts per million. If you are serious about going gluten-free, you should research good products that work with your body.
If this is stressing you out and you’re worried if it is safe to be eating gluten even if you aren’t showing any form of intolerance, you can relax because gluten is safe for most people. However, some shouldn’t eat it.
There is a sickness known as celiac disease. What is it? It is an autoimmune condition where a person’s immune system will attack the cells in their small intestine when they consume gluten. It affects about 1% of the global population.
Researchers still aren’t sure about what causes this disease, but what they do know is that they need to follow a rigorous gluten-free diet to prevent any adverse reactions. There is also a non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
This sensitivity happens to people who have symptoms that are sorted out when they eliminate gluten from their diet but do not test positive for celiac disease. They also don’t test positive for a wheat allergy. They are also “prescribed” a gluten-free diet.
People may also experience a wheat allergy. That is not considered proper gluten intolerance, but it is quite similar. Wheat allergies are not just from the gluten protein but are also caused by a reaction to the wheat.
Someone deals with a wheat allergy can safely eat gluten but should avoid gluten that is in wheat. That person is safe to enjoy gluten in the form of barley or rye, as these are gluten sources that don’t contain wheat. Those with a wheat allergy, generally tend to follow a gluten-free diet because these two ingredients coexist more often than not.
Gluten intolerance symptoms will vary from person to person. In quite a few cases, people don’t have any visible signs, which is why conditions such as celiac disease go misdiagnosed for a while before this is discovered.
Some symptoms can include, most obviously – digestive issues. You could be experiencing quite a bit of bloating, abdominal pains, and even more severe symptoms like diarrhea and even constipation.
However – these could also be caused by other things, so don’t automatically assume that you have gluten intolerance if you are experiencing that currently. You may also react to your skin.
The reaction could present itself in the form of a rash or eczema. You may also have skin inflammation that could indicate gluten intolerance. Even more severe symptoms could be neurological issues, so you’ll want to get checked out.
These symptoms can be confusion, anxiety, depression, lack of focus, feeling fatigued, and even in some cases, difficulty speaking. Other symptoms outside of these could be weight loss and headaches.
People with gluten intolerance could also experience osteoporosis and anemia. Of course, if you are noticing a change in your body and experiencing these symptoms and suspect gluten is the cause, you should contact your doctor.
Don’t automatically eliminate gluten from your diet until you have contacted and been seen by a professional. The reason for this is that by already being on a gluten-free diet, there may be inaccurate results when tested for celiac disease conditions.
Rather than self-diagnosing, let your doctor complete a proper screening. Other conditions can present with the same symptoms, and you don’t want to miss an essential diagnosis by thinking it is gluten intolerance.
Even if you aren’t currently suffering from these symptoms, you might want to try out a gluten-free lifestyle. A gluten-free diet offers you many health benefits, even for those who aren’t suffering from intolerance.
If you are someone who already suffers from bloating, you might notice a change when going gluten-free. If you have a gluten intolerance or celiac disease, you will see a total shift in your digestion of food and your stomach won’t be bloated after a meal.
This year has been a particularly tiring one, but if you’ve noticed that you’re feeling a bit more tired than usual, taking gluten out of your diet could be the answer, especially if you have a gluten intolerance lurking beneath the surface.
For people who are sensitive to gluten, the gluten damages their intestines, which means they cannot absorb nutrients that they need, including iron. Iron deficiency causes anemia, which leads to fatigue in a person.
When moving to a gluten-free diet, you are giving your intestines a chance to heal and recover from this, and you’ll notice that your energy levels start picking up more and more. It’s worth a shot if you notice this fatigue.
Along with your energy levels, eliminating gluten from your diet can reduce joint pain if you are suffering from gluten intolerance. Joint pain in the knees, back, and wrist are common symptoms of celiac disease, so a gluten-free diet will reduce the amount of inflammation you are experiencing.
If you have been experiencing many headaches, you might be interested to know that there is a connection between gut health and the brain. People who have gluten intolerance or celiac disease are more prone to migraine headaches.
It is possible to reduce these headaches by adopting a gluten-free lifestyle. Consult your doctor if the problems persist, but this could be the solution to your debilitating headaches that prevent you from carrying on with your day.
Another benefit of eating gluten-free is to do with depression. People who have celiac disease are more likely to suffer from depression than those who are not affected by this gluten intolerance and an autoimmune condition.
Research has shown that when these patients go on a gluten-free diet, it has a significant effect on their depression, and the symptoms are reduced. It can help in making their quality of life a lot better, thus improving their mental health.
Last but not least, it can do wonders for your skin and your hair. People who have gluten intolerance are at a higher risk of skin conditions such as rashes, eczema, and psoriasis. Eating gluten-free can help to improve your skin and reduce these issues.
When you suffer from gluten intolerance, you have nutritional deficiencies, which can lead to hair loss. Moving towards a gluten-free lifestyle can help to reverse this and improve your hair density as well as the texture.
If you’ve decided to go gluten-free, for whatever your reason, there are some steps you can take to make this transition work for you. The first thing you’re going to need to do is to clean out and organize your pantry.
You need to turn this into a gluten-free space, and everybody loves a good spring clean now and then. Get a cardboard box and start to put all the gluten-containing items into the box – you can donate these to a charity or a friend.
You can also take note of the things that you feel like you are going to miss. This concept will help you to start making your gluten-free shopping list. In your pantry, set aside an area that will be entirely gluten free, this is important if you’re the only one doing this in your home.
If everyone in your household is making the change, the whole pantry can become a gluten-free zone. If it’s just you, you don’t want someone tucking into your gluten-free food and then feeling like you’re stuck without a snack and resorting to eating something with gluten.
The next thing goes alongside your pantry cleanout. You’re going to have to learn to be a label reader of all food items to avoid products that contain gluten. When cleaning out the pantry, take the time to read the labels and learn the terminology.
You should also learn the alternative names for gluten sources. This addition can include malt vinegar, thickeners, starches, and even flavorings. You’ll also need to learn the differences between kinds of wheat so you know what you can and can’t buy.
When you start cooking in the gluten-free style, you’ll notice that your ingredient list is about double the usual things you will cook. Don’t let this put you off – it’s just an adjustment, and you will get used to it very soon.
So, what’s one of the best tips for this? Make sure that you get a big bag of gluten-free all-purpose flour. This purchase means that you have plenty of flour to help you bake some amazing and yummy treats and any recipes that need flour.
The yummy taste will help you realize that gluten-free cooking is easy and also just as delicious as food that had gluten in it. You can even try your hand at making some pasta if you’re a pasta lover instead of buying a store-bought pasta.
It may take more time, but it will be worth it. There’s nothing like fresh pasta, and having fresh pasta without the worry about a gluten-intolerance flare-up is even better. There are so many yummy recipes available online, so give one a try this weekend.
Some items you might want to replace are not even food. They are appliances, like your toaster. Cleaning a toaster is near impossible, and there is always going to be one lingering crumb that will be stuck in there forever.
Luckily, toasters are affordable, and going gluten-free also means it’s a great time to invest in a new toaster. You don’t want your new gluten free bread or others to get gluten on them and then have a flare-up for this reason.
If you are the only one in the household who will be eating gluten-free, make sure that no one else uses your new toaster. An easy way to do this is to label your toaster with stickers or another identifiable label.
Keep the other toaster when you need it for other family members or even guests who aren’t going to be eating the same type of food as you. It’s the little changes like this that make all the difference and make it easier to transition.
This step is not essential, but if you have the budget, it’s something that you should consider. You might also not have the storage space to get even more pans, and if you don’t, just make sure to clean your pans as best as you can.
If you want to replace them, look through your pans, and watch for any worn-out surfaces, scratches, or dents as it is these areas that can keep the gluten locked into the pots. You can mark the handles of these individual pans too.
You’re also going to need to be very aware of the dreaded double-dipping! This unwanted action is a common way that gluten is spread to gluten-free products. You need to establish a strict house rule about only one dip into a jar with a utensil.
Gone are the days when you can dip into the peanut butter jar a few times when putting the spread on your sandwich. The breadcrumbs will enjoy their new home in the peanut butter and make its way onto the gluten-free products the next time it is used.
A great and easy way to avoid this is to buy condiments and spreads that come in a squeeze bottle. You can quickly put this onto gluten or gluten-free products without having to worry about cross-contamination of gluten.
If this isn’t possible, and people are still double-dipping, consider buying two separate items and storing the gluten-free ones in your area of the pantry and letting others enjoy their double-dipping of utensils with another jar.
Now, if you want a solution to be as easy as possible, try and get everyone in your home to go gluten-free. This idea will mean that everyone is eating the same food, so you don’t have to prepare two different meals or use different utensils or pans.
You can still send your kids off to school with non-gluten-free bread, but when it comes to meals at home, they could be gluten-free. It is cheaper and easier to have everyone eating the same type of food instead of having different eating requirements.
It’s also much easier to eat gluten-free when you have the support of those around you. With less of those gluten filled temptations, you’re more likely to reap the rewards of the new eating habits you’ve implemented.
There are also many amazing gluten-free snacks and pre-packaged food that you can enjoy that will make this move very easy for both you and your family. Now for the fun part – all the tasty food you can eat that are gluten-free!
You’re probably very eager to get your gluten-free grocery list started, and one of the best things to start with is learning what whole grains you can eat that are naturally gluten-free. You’ll still need to check all labels, though, as some might have been made in factories with gluten foods.
It is typical for oats because they are often made in a facility that will also process wheat. This notion means that, unfortunately, cross-contamination is something that regularly happens, so it’s essential to make sure your oats are certified as a gluten-free product.
These whole grains are naturally gluten-free, and they are delicious as well: quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, millet, teff, arrowroot, tapioca, and sorghum. There are others, too; you can just research and find out if your favorite whole-grain is gluten-free.
Next up are our fruits and vegetables. The great news is that all fresh fruit and vegetables are already gluten-free. The things you are going to watch out for are the processed fruit and vegetables that may contain gluten in the form of flavoring or a thickener.
Go ahead and enjoy plenty of citrus fruits, apples, and bananas when you move to a gluten-free diet. You can also fill up at snack time with plenty of berries, pears, and even peaches. If you are a veggie-lover, you have some great options too.
Make a delicious cauliflower and broccoli salad and mix in some other greens like spinach or kale. You’ll also be pleased to know that you don’t have to say goodbye to your dinner starches such as potatoes and squash.
When it comes to protein sources, most of them are naturally gluten free. You will have to pay attention if you are buying ready to eat proteins, that their sauces, rubs, or marinades might contain gluten.
Stick to fresh produce and season or marinate it yourself to ensure there are no traces of gluten in it. Enjoy your legumes, nuts, red meat, poultry, and seafood. What proteins should you be checking out a bit more closely?
Processed meats are something you should be wary of, so you might have to say goodbye to the pepperoni on your pizza. Things like vegetarian burgers also often contain gluten, so make sure to check all labeling on the package.
You will also need to avoid proteins that have been crumbed in bread, but you can look into alternative versions of this that you can make at home. You’ll also need to be careful of the protein in microwavable dinners.
With dairy products, they are mostly gluten-free. The only concerns are the flavored dairy products, so if you want these, check their labeling for any gluten. You should be able to safely enjoy products such as milk, butter, cheese, cream, sour cream, and yogurt.
For your other fats and oils, these are gluten-free too. Go ahead and use butter, olive oil, coconut oil, vegetable oil, and avocado oil. You’ll need to stay away from or double-check on cooking sprays you are using or any oils with added spices or flavors.
Last but not least are drinks. There are quite a few beverages with additives, which means they more likely than not, contain gluten. There are also alcoholic drinks made with malt and barley, which means you can’t have this on a gluten-free diet.
Indulge in coffee, tea, 100% fruit juice, and water, of course. Just check the labels of any drinks you are unsure of and do your research. The research will be your best friend as you begin your exciting and tasty gluten-free diet.