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Gluten-free foods are popping up everywhere, and you can’t turn on the TV without hearing some celebrity talking about their gluten-free diet.  We all know that a gluten-free diet is a given for people with Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disease that damages your small intestine and prevents the absorption of nutrients leading to malnutrition.  But Celiac Disease only affects about 1% of the population, so why do I care about going gluten-free?  How about diarrhea, acne, fatigue and headaches to start…  Yikes!

You could have a gluten sensitivity or intolerance and not even know.  Experts estimate is 10% of the population, possibly more, has a gluten sensitivity.  Within that 10%, the range of severity and symptoms varies dramatically.  So how do you know if you have a sensitivity or intolerance to gluten?  First, you need to eat gluten and track how you feel for a few days or a week.  The week you are still eating gluten, note how you are feeling, including tracking the following symptoms:
  • Diarrhea, constipation or both
  • Frequent gas or bloating
  • Stomach cramping and/or pain
  • Fat or mucus in stool
  • Fatigue (especially after a meal)
  • Brain fog
  • Headaches, migraines
  • Depression, anxiety
  • Irritability, moodiness
  • Acne
  • Eczema
  • Aching Joints
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Tingling, numbness in extremities

After you’ve had a chance to log symptoms for a few days or a week, you need to completely cut out gluten for at least 2-4 weeks.  Some people start to see symptom improvements in one week but it can take up to 4 weeks to see significant improvement.   So what foods should you completely cut out while you are testing for gluten intolerance?

You must avoid all foods, drinks and products with:
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  • Wheat, wheat berries, wheat-germ, wheat flour
  • Bulgar
  • Farro
  • Durum flour
  • Tempura crumbs
  • Spelt
  • Semolina
  • Kamut
  • Graham flour
  • Farina
  • Couscous
  • Tabbouleh
  • Barley (including, malt)
  • Rye
  • Oats, oatmeal

This is the questionable list, where you need to read labels carefully to look for wheat or wheat products, proteins and binding agents.  Or look for products labeled gluten-free:
  • Beer
  • Bread & breadcrumbs
  • Pastries, cakes, pies
  • Cereal
  • French fries & fast food
  • Energy bars
  • Cookies, crackers, candy
  • Salad dressing, condiments, Worcestershire, marinades
  • Pasta
  • Processed meats; lunch meat, meat balls, hot dogs, sausages
  • Gravy, soups & sauces
  • Soy sauce, teriyaki & “natural flavorings”
  • Matzo
  • Imitation seafood
  • Seasoned rice
  • Seasoned snack foods including nuts, popcorn, potato and tortilla chips
  • Flavored tea
  • Flavored alcohol

I’m sure you’re thinking, what CAN I eat while testing for gluten, and if I need to go gluten free?  Of course, anything labeled gluten-free or you have confirmed does  and any of the following:

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  • All fresh fruits & vegetables
  • Quinoa, amaranth, millet, teff & buckwheat
  • Arrowroot
  • Rice
  • Beans, peas & lentils
  • Corn & cornstarch
  • Eggs, milk & cheese
  • Meat; beef, lamb, chicken, turkey
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Flaxseed
  • Grits, hominy and polenta
  • Potatoes, potato starch and potato flour
  • Raw nuts
  • Sorghum and tapioca

If by cutting out gluten you see an improvement in your symptoms, you should consider cutting out or cutting down on the gluten.  Try cutting out gluten for 6 months. If you still have multiple symptoms after you’ve completely cut out gluten, talk to your doctor and consider an elimination diet to detect the source of your issues.  The other likely suspects could be dairy, sugar, fish/shellfish and alcohol.

After all this, you could still be asking, what the “F” is gluten?  The short answer, Gluten, latin for glue.  It’s a protein found in wheat, barley and rye to hold things together, it gives dough elasticity, makes it chewy and helps it rise.  For more information on gluten or going gluten-free, check out the Celiac Disease Foundation.

 


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