Gluten is a protein composite that is found in foods processed from wheat, barley and rye. Lately there has been an arising awareness of the gluten found in the foods that we eat since gluten intolerance and sensitivity has become somewhat of a hot topic in nutrition and health. Many food products sold at the grocery store that do not contain gluten will often carry a “gluten free” label. Many people choose to eat gluten free simply for weight management purposes but many people suffer from an array of physical side effects related to ingesting products containing gluten. An allergy to gluten is called Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine. People who have Celiac disease develop an autoimmune reaction when ingesting gluten that causes an inflammatory response of the small intestine. This causes damage to the lining of the small intestine which impairs the absorption of nutrients that are vital for the growth and repair of the body’s major organs (Australian Life Science, July 2010). A 2009 report from the Journal of Gastroenterology estimates that 1 in 105 adults in the United States suffer from gluten sensitivity, while 1 in 1750 adults have an allergy to gluten, the most severe form of gluten intolerance. There is no medical treatment for Celiac Disease. The only treatment is strict adherence to a gluten free diet. Unfortunately, gluten is a food staple in many typical North American diets. This can make going “gluten free” difficult for some. Many food manufacturers and restaurants are becoming more savvy by labeling items gluten free and offering gluten free choices on their menus. If left undiagnosed and untreated by dietary modifications, people with Celiac Disease can develop serious health issues.
Two years ago I began to develop an itchy, blistering type rash on my hands that only seemed to get worse with any type of topical treatment that my doctor prescribed. The rash persisted for more than 6 months and would not go away. The rash finally began to subside a month into my contest diet for the North Americans in 2009. Strangely enough, this rash returned once my off season began. This time, the rash developed on my hands, elbows and knees. Along with the rash came heart palpitations; fatigue; hair loss; abdominal pain, distention and bloating; chronic diarrhea; and nausea. These symptoms were very debilitating for me and interfered with my job and my love for working out. I pretty much felt like crap all the time and I didn’t have the energy to do the things that I love to do. One day, I described my symptoms to a Gastroenterology specialist at the hospital where I work and he said “that sounds like Celiac disease to me”. I was puzzled. I had heard of people being allergic to gluten but could all these symptoms really be caused by gluten? I began to put the pieces together and I realized that the symptoms only began after I ate more liberally and came off my contest diet which was, by nature, gluten free. It wasn’t until I had some freedom in my diet and began indulging in starchy “cheat” foods that I developed the symptoms. Since the only treatment for Celiac Disease is a gluten free diet, I immediately purged my diet of gluten and after 2 days I began to feel more energetic, after 4 days, my very distended abdomen was pain free and flat as a board again and after 2 weeks, the rash was completely gone. I was amazed! Initially, it was very tricky to adhere to a gluten free diet but I found that there were actually a lot of foods that I could eat. Some of my favorite gluten free carbohydrates are: steel cut oats, organic brown rice cakes, sweet potatoes and corn “Chex” cereal.
Symptoms vary from person to person and may occur in the digestive system or in other parts of the body. People who suffer from Celiac Disease have physical symptoms that cause discomfort directly related to the gastrointestinal component of the disease, but also suffer the side effects of chronic disease that occur simply because of the malabsorption of nutrients directly caused by the intolerance to gluten. The following are some of the symptoms that affect people with gluten intolerance or Celiac Disease:
There is a genetic component linked to the incidence of Celiac Disease. Many people who have Celiac Disease also have a immediate family member (parent, sibling or child) with the condition. Diagnosing Celiac Disease can be difficult since many of the symptoms of the intolerance to gluten resemble those of other diseases. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness states that there are more than 300 symptoms of Celiac Disease. In order to diagnose Celiac Disease, blood tests must be done to test for high levels of tTGA (tissue transglutaminase antibodies) or EMA (anti-endomysium antibodies). Additional testing may be done including an intestinal biopsy done during endoscopy (source: National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse).
Gluten, as previously stated, is found in products made with wheat, barley and rye. That means breads, cereals, pasta and other grain products contain high amounts of gluten. You might be surprised to know that there are also many hidden sources of gluten include additives such as modified food starch, preservatives, and stabilizers made with wheat. And because many corn and rice products are produced in factories that also manufacture wheat products, they can be contaminated with wheat gluten. Additionally, some medications and supplements also contain gluten. Lucky for me, all of 1st Phorm’s supplements are gluten free and carry the gluten free logo on the container! I have become quite a label reader since I discovered that I have this condition but surprisingly my diet still has a lot of variety. Here is a list of some gluten rich and gluten free foods:
Snacks: pretzels, crackers, pita chips, croutons, cakes, cookies, biscuits, muffins, doughnuts, ice cream cones; certain varieties of ice cream and pudding.
Drinks: chocolate drink mix; beer; non-dairy creamer; root beer
Grain products: bread and bread products, cereal and pasta; breadcrumbs; pancakes; flour tortillas; breaded meats (fried chicken, chicken nuggets); pizza crust
Sneaky sources of gluten (foods that contain the wheat protein gluten, although are not necessarily made of wheat): modified food starch; teriyaki and soy sauce; lunch meat; commercially prepared soups; blue cheese; malt vinegar; brewer’s yeast; matzo flour; semolina; textured vegetable protein
Breads and cereals: Specially made gluten free bread; corn cereal (chex); brown rice cereal; brown rice cakes; steel cut oats (I currently tolerate regular Quaker Oats just fine but some experts say that these may potentially contain traces of gluten due to the factory which they are processed makes products containing gluten)
Organic and unseasoned meats (seasoning such as chicken broth or other spices contain gluten)
Substitutions for wheat flour and pasta include: corn flour, brown rice flour, quinoa, brown rice, potatoes, potato starch, buckwheat
Whole fruits and vegetables; plain dairy products (milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, skim milk cheeses); eggs
Source: National Foundation for Celiac Awareness www.celiaccentral.org
Despite the restrictions that people who have gluten allergy have to follow, it’s easy to eat a well balanced diet with a variety of foods. The most important thing that I have learned is to become an avid label reader, always looking for hidden sources of gluten in everything that I eat. One of the easiest ways to be gluten free is to shop the perimeter of the grocery store where you will find foods in their most natural state. Following a gluten free diet may seem like a daunting task at first but with a little imagination and creativity, anyone can make delicious gluten free meals.
The post I have a close friend who is allergic to Gluten and I don’t know much about it. I have read that you eat a lot of gluten free products so I want to know what all the “gluten free” hype is about? appeared first on 1st Phorm.
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