The Gluten-Free Diet Explained
What’s the deal with gluten? Gluten encompasses a group of proteins that are found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). It helps maintain the structural integrity of these plants and becomes the glue that holds bread together. The next time you see someone tossing pizza dough, just know that the gluten is what is preventing the dough from tearing apart.
Today, roughly 3.1 million people in the United States follow a gluten-free diet. Likewise, 1 in 5 individuals choose to follow a gluten-free diet because they believe it is healthier. While numerous people have hopped on the gluten-free train in the past decade, there is more to the story than just a popular diet trend.
Gluten Related Medical Conditions
A common misconception about the gluten-free diet is that it will resolve all of your digestive problems. Anecdotal evidence from individuals not diagnosed with a gluten-related medical condition suggests that the gluten-free diet can boost your energy and trigger weight loss – however, more research needs to be conducted on these claims. Fortunately, not everyone needs to avoid gluten in order for their body to digest foods properly.
For those who suspect that gluten is causing their bodies discomfort, here are the four types of medical conditions that might be improved by a gluten-free diet:
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that directly targets gluten. Those who suffer from this condition experience an immune response in their small intestine as a result of gluten ingestion. Persistent irritation can lead to weight loss, bloating, fatigue, constipation, diarrhea, and anemia. Because there is no cure for celiac disease, a gluten-free diet is a crucial component in maintaining digestive health.
If you think you have developed celiac disease, make sure to consult a medical professional before drastically changing your lifestyle. Celiac disease can be acquired at any point of your lifetime.
Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity
Even if you do not have celiac disease, there is the possibility that your body will experience discomfort when faced with gluten. Those who have non-celiac gluten sensitivity suffer from similar symptoms that those with celiac disease do: brain fog, bloating, fatigue, constipation, and diarrhea. However, weight loss does not occur at the same degree and no damage occurs to the small intestine. Studies show that the immune system may also play a role in non-celiac gluten sensitivity. However, the mechanisms of this particular condition are not yet fully understood.
Just like celiac disease, gluten ataxia is an autoimmune disorder triggered by the ingestion of gluten. However, rather than having to deal with digestive problems, those with gluten ataxia suffer from balance and motion control. This causes trouble in everyday activities like speech, posture, walking, and running.
Gluten ataxia is a progressive condition that is best treated early on. A gluten-free diet is often assigned as a form of treatment for easing symptoms. Due to the potential severity of this condition, it is best to consult with a medical professional and/or registered dietitian before proceeding with a set diet regimen.
Contrary to popular belief, you can not be allergic to gluten. Rather, what most people misinterpret as a gluten allergy or sensitivity could actually be a wheat allergy. Signs that you might have a wheat allergy include developing hives or a skin rash, nausea, digestive discomfort, sneezing, and headaches during or after ingesting products with wheat. If you have a wheat allergy, you can still consume other grains, like rye and barley, that contain gluten.
Before transitioning to a gluten-free diet, it is in the best interest of your health to consult a medical professional to confirm if you suffer from a gluten-related medical condition. Not only is it more difficult to diagnose a gluten-related medical condition if you have not consumed gluten for a long time, but there are millions of people out there who would love to have the option to eat whatever they desire.
The Nuts & Bolts of Gluten-Free Foods
On a day to day basis, a lot of attention and care goes into a gluten-free diet. Gluten may be hiding in foods you least expect. Here is a basic guide:
Naturally Gluten-Free Foods:
- Lean, not processed meat, seafood, and poultry
- Fruits and vegetables
- Unprocessed beans, nuts, seeds, and legumes
- Oats (Note: oats are naturally gluten-free but can be contaminated if processed in the same facility as wheat, rye, or barley)
- Brown rice
Common Foods Containing Gluten:
- Breads & Pastries
- Sauces & Gravies (e.g. soy sauce, sauces made with roux, some salad dressings)
Reading Food Labels
Wheat, rye, barley, and triticale are the four main types of grains that gluten sensitive individuals should be avoiding. However, not only are there several varieties of wheat, but some flours can contain gluten depending on how it is processed. Make sure to keep a lookout for these ingredients when reading food labels:
Varieties of Wheat:
- Einkorn wheat
- Khorasan wheat
Gluten Containing Flours:
- Enriched flour
- Graham flour (course, whole wheat flour)
- Self-rising flour (phosphate flour)
How the Gluten-Free Tasterbox Can Help
Individuals who avoid eating gluten, whether due to health concerns or by choice, may find themselves resorting to the same foods over and over again out of fear of accidentally ingesting gluten. We get it. That’s why Tastermonial is expanding your options and introducing you to new brands to ensure you have plenty of gluten-free food choices.
Tastermonial’s Gluten-Free Tasterbox is curated by our team and by our licensed dietitian to ensure that every product inside is 100% gluten-free. Tasterboxes are grocery boxes filled with premium, small food brands that meet your dietary needs. Each month, the Tasterbox products will rotate, allowing you and your family to continue exploring healthy and delicious foods that meet your dietary needs. If you fall in love with a product from a previous box, you can also find them at the Tastermonial grocery store.
The June Gluten-Free Tasterbox is available now! All boxes are available for preorder and will be delivered in June.
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Tastermonial content is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Take necessary precautions when handling information regarding food and nutrition. If you are ever unsure about pursuing a particular diet, make sure to consult a medical professional or licensed dietitian for more individual guidance.