I didn’t know
About six years ago I started to often feel bloated after eating certain foods. I felt slow, lacking in energy and everything seemed to take more time. This went on for some time until I had had enough and decided to visit my herbalist. Like so many of us it took time till I got out of my comfort zone to take care of this most important aspect of life – my health. That was when I first discovered the word Gluten. I changed my diet but the more I researched the more horrified I was that I had taken so long to change to a gluten free diet.
Gluten-free diet? What’s that?
If this is new to you let me just explain what gluten free food is. These are foods which have no gluten proteins. Gluten is a mix of different proteins found in wheat products such as rye, spelt, barley. This will of course include breads, pasta, and all other products made of wheat.
You will also find it in products like malt, some cereals and even products you might not immediately think of, like soups for example. If you love such products it might be hard to cut them out of your diet partly or completely. But there are alternatives if you decide to.
Why would you want to cut them out of your diet?
In one way, gluten is necessary for certain products. It is what makes a loaf of bread look like a loaf of bread and not a lump of baked wheat; the gluten proteins give it its shape. On the other hand eating foods that contain gluten can cause all sorts of health issues if your body can not cope with them.
Maintaining a gluten free diet is for many about eating healthier but for many more it is literally a matter of life or death. This is no dramatisation; people with a strong gluten intolerance also known known as celiac disease can die from eating products containing gluten.
Knowing what gluten intolerance symptoms feel like
The gluten intolerance symptoms are very similar to wheat allergy and celiac symptoms. For this and other reasons it is important to recognise and differentiate the symptoms. For someone with celiac it is more than just important, it is imperative. If you have any of these symptoms you might want to consider consulting a physician before starting a gluten free diet.
Symptoms of gluten intolerance
- abdominal pains
- “brain fog”
Symptoms of wheat allergy
More children than adults seem to have wheat allergy, as they grow out of it in the majority of cases by the time they reach 12-13. The reaction might start within a couple of minutes, but could also take a longer time before appearing.The degree of the symptom may vary.
symptoms are :
- having difficulty breathing
- irritation around the mouth, throat and eyes
Symptoms of celiac disease
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder and much more serious. A consequence for people with celiac disorder who eat gluten foods could be that their intestines will stop functioning properly due to the intestine becoming damaged. The result could be malnutrition or weight loss. People suffering from celiac can only have a gluten free diet. The symptoms of celiac disease include:
- bloating and gas
- stomach pains
- chronic diarrhea or
- chronic constipation
- lack of appetite
- weight loss
- muscle cramps
- growth problems (in children)
The symptoms in adults are usually different from those of children.
Do you have to stop eating all the things you like?
Not necessarily. You can buy alternatives to wheat such as quinoa, amaranth grains or gluten free flour and make your own bread. There are hundreds of gluten free bread recipes to choose from. Alternatively you could order from a trusted supplier- although you do need to be cautious here if you have celiac, as there might be some….if gluten free and gluten..are produced within close range. Care should also be taken when purchasing packaged and processed foods which may contain gluten.
Just because you are gluten intolerant or have celiac, it does not mean you have to miss out; there are restaurants with gluten free menus, whole areas in shops with gluten free products. You can add more fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet as they are naturally gluten free.
If you think you might have celiac disease or an intolerance to gluten or are simply not sure, I would recommend seeking out a health professional. Certainty one way or another will put your mind at ease and allow you to start taking any necessary steps. The first step to take is informing yourself about the conditions. I have provided a few links to some literature below if you want some more information.
A closing thought
With Thanksgiving in the United states and Christmas coming up you might consider giving some gluten free gifts if this is part of a tradition you take part in. They would make original and useful gifts which people with celiac disease or those on a gluten free diet might be happy to receive. Or you might consider doing some gluten free baking for them.