by Jackie Herschwitz
A gluten-free diet can be your simple answer to restoring good health. Some people say that going gluten-free relieves a slew of health problems, from fatigue and acne to obesity.
Gluten, a protein found in wheat and related grains causes inflammation in the small intestines of people who have celiac disease.
For many individuals with an allergy to gluten, the typical signs such as abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea and bloating are absent. Gluten intolerance can manifest as headaches, infertility, joint pain, skin rashes and other symptoms.
Many experts now think of gluten intolerance as a spectrum of conditions with celiac disease on one end and a variety of gluten-related problems extending to the other. Even though testing might not indicate celiac disease, an individual can have reactions to the protein.
Daniel Leffler, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School estimates that about half of the people in the United States who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome are probably sensitive to gluten.
If you suspect your body can't tolerate gluten, first you'll want to schedule a test for celiac disease. Even if it comes back negative you can try eliminating gluten for a week to see if you feel better.
Going gluten-free has been touted as a weight-loss or detox diet. There's nothing magical about removing the gluten from your menu, but if you've been eating junk foods high in refined flour, sugar and fats you could see improved health and weight loss.
Gluten sensitive individuals should see an improvement in their health. You might think that since you've been just fine all these years, you have nothing to worry about. That's not true. Women commonly are first diagnosed with celiac disease in their 40s, 50s and 60s.
Hundreds of grains and other good items are safe for those on a gluten-free diet. You can eat far more foods than you need to avoid. This charts lists some of the gluten-free items you can enjoy.
This basic list of items containing gluten can help you avoid it, especially in packaged and prepared foods. Be on the lookout for these keywords.
Eliminating wheat from your diet can also remove the vitamins and minerals that the wheat family provides. Studies have shown that standard gluten-free foods are low in iron, fiber, B vitamins and vitamin E, especially when baking with the "white" alternative products like white or sweet rice flour, tapioca and potato starch.
As you adapt your recipes, try to include alternative grain products that contain substantial amounts of fiber, protein, calcium, and iron. These nutrients are found in whole grains, but in much smaller amounts in highly processed grains. Quinoa, sorghum, teff, amaranth, brown rice and millet flour are all good products to try.
Fruits and vegetables provide fiber and some contribute iron, calcium and B vitamins. Enjoy a variety of them regularly. Try these tricks for including more in your diet.
• Add apples, pineapple and pears to salads
• Combine pear and apple slices with fruit butters or yogurt dips.
• Cook up a pot of chili or lentils.
• Toss asparagus, brussel sprouts or carrots with oil and roast.
• Bake kale chips as an alternative to potato chips.
Recently, it seems the stores offer an abundance of gluten-free foods. Even restaurant menus chime in with alternatives. The marketing can lead you to believe that gluten-free is the way to better health or weight loss.