What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and contaminated oats. Gluten is responsible for the elasticity found in breads and other baked goods.
What happens to your body if you have Celiac disease and eat gluten?
Basically, when people with Celiac disease eat gluten-containing foods, their immune system damages/destroys villi on your small intestine. The villi are tiny, fingerlike “helpers”, allowing nutrients to be absorbed from the walls of your small intestine to your bloodstream. Picture these villi as carpet. If the villi become blunted too much your carpet turns into a hard wood floor. Get it? Damage equals no fun and can lead to malabsorption. Good news is that your villi can be regenerated by following a gluten-free diet.
Further, some people have abdominal discomfort when they eat gluten and shouldn’t. Others, break out in rashes when they eat gluten and shouldn’t. It’s a really interesting disease and can manifest different in different people.
What foods contain gluten?
Gluten is found in foods containing wheat, rye, barley, and contaminated oats. Here is a quick list of food terms that contain gluten: barley, bulgar, couscous, dinkle (or spelt), durum wheat, farina, graham flour, gluten (also other gluten words are gliadin, gluten peptides, glutenin), kamut, matza (sad face — I used to love matza ball soup), rye, and semolina.
There are also other questionable foods like oats, that may or may not contain gluten. Oats are easily contaminated, so you want to buy certified gluten-free oats to make sure your oats are safe. Other question food terms are: bran, edible starch, food starch, grits, groats, hemp, malt, and modified food starch. Always read the ingredient list on packaged foods.
Foods you should always check: all condiments and deli meats.
If you are unsure whether a product contains gluten, don’t eat it!
So, what can you eat?
You can eat all types of foods! Quinoa, millet, amaranth, rice (watch out for seasoned mixes though), beans, potatoes, fruits, veggies, dairy (watch out for seasoned cheese spreads), and all types of meat (buy uncooked and not prepared by a super market). Foods that come prepackaged are going to be more likely to contain an additive that may have gluten. You are going to become a much better cook when you’re gluten free, I’m sure! Basically, you want to be in charge of knowing what ingredients are in the meals you eat, so enhancing your cooking skills at home is an awesome thing to do.
And remember, a gluten-free diet is not a fad diet. It is a lifestyle for those who medically need it. There is more research being done about which diseases a gluten-free diet can help, so I’ll be sure to keep you up to date!