A gluten-free diet is a diet pattern that excludes certain foods containing the protein gluten such as wheat, rye, and barley. This diet pattern is vital for regulating signs and symptoms of celiac disease and other medical problems related to gluten called gluten sensitivity. A person intolerant to gluten needs to avoid it totally, if not will have severe discomfort and undesirable health effects.
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is a type of protein found chiefly in wheat, barley, rye and spelt. It derives its name from the Latin word “glue” as it offers flour a sticky consistency when blended with water. These glue-like characteristics aid gluten making a sticky network that provides bread with the ability to rise when baked and a chewy and appetising texture.
Most people feel unpleasant after having gluten-rich foods and the most serious reaction is called celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder where the system mistakenly harms itself and considers gluten as a foreign body. To get rid of gluten, the system overreacts and attacks the gluten proteins and the surrounding gut wall. This results in nutrient deficiencies, digestive issues and increases the risk of several diseases. Thus, if you observe that eating gluten rich foods makes you feel uncomfortable then seek medical help.
Health Benefits Of Gluten-free Diet
Eases Digestive Symptoms
A gluten-free diet is best known to relieve digestive symptoms such as bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, gas, and fatigue for people with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Inflammation is a natural process that supports the system to heal infections and treat health disorders. A gluten-free diet can help lower markers of inflammation in those with celiac disease and treat gut damage.
Most people with celiac disease feel tired, sluggish or experience brain fog, which is caused due to nutrient deficiencies. Thus, following a gluten-free diet may be beneficial for patients with celiac disease to boost energy levels and stay active.
Promotes Weight Loss
A gluten-free diet is one of the effective ways to shed surplus kilos, as it steers clear of junk foods that add to unwanted calories in the meal plan. These foods are mostly replaced with fruits, veggies, and lean proteins. However, it is also essential to avoid processed gluten-free foods like cakes, snacks, and pastries as they add a lot of calories to the diet.
Foods To Avoid
Well, totalling refraining gluten from the diet can be quite a difficult task, as it is found in most common ingredients added to foods.
Some of the key sources of gluten in the diet includes:
- Wheat-based foods such as wheat bran, wheat flour, spelt, durum, kamut and semolina
- Brewer’s yeast
Some of food sources that may have ingredients containing gluten added to them:
- Bread - all wheat-based bread
- Pasta - all wheat-based pasta
- Cereals - unless labelled gluten-free
- Baked goods - cakes, cookies, muffins, pizza, breadcrumbs, and pastries
- Packaged Foods - candy, muesli bars, crackers, convenience foods, roasted nuts, flavoured chips, and popcorn
- Sauces - soy sauce, salad dressings
- Beverages - beer, flavoured alcoholic beverages
One of the effective ways to avoid gluten is to eat unprocessed, single ingredient foods. Oats are naturally gluten-free but can be contaminated with gluten during processing.
Foods To Eat
There are several healthy and delicious gluten-free meal options available which include:
- Meats and fish - all meats and fish
- Eggs - all types of eggs are naturally gluten-free
- Dairy - plain dairy products, such as plain milk, plain yogurt, and cheeses. However, flavoured dairy products may have added ingredients that contain gluten, so read the food label
- Fruits and vegetables – fruits and vegetables are naturally free of gluten
- Grains - quinoa, rice, buckwheat, tapioca, sorghum, corn, millet, amaranth, arrowroot, teff and oats (if labelled gluten -free)
- Starches and flours -potatoes, corn, chickpea flour, soy flour, almond meal/flour, coconut flour and tapioca flour
- Nuts and seeds- all nuts and seeds
- Spreads and oils- all vegetable oils and butter
- Herbs and spices -all herbs and spices
For people with celiac disease, it’s essential to avoid exposure to gluten, thus following some of the tips can help avert cross-contamination at home and avoid gluten-containing food while eating out:
- Keep gluten-free and gluten-containing foods in different kitchen cabinets
- Keep cooking surfaces and food storage areas clean
- Wash cooking equipment thoroughly
- Toast bread in the oven — or use separate toasters — to avoid cross-contamination
- Check restaurant menus online ahead of time, if possible, to ensure there are options for you
- Most beverages, except for beer, contains gluten
Frequently Asked Questions
Is There A Risk Of Nutritional Deficiencies When I Follow A Gluten-Free Diet?
No, not essentially, if you have a well-balanced diet, you wouldn't miss out on any vital nutrients. Additionally, getting professional dietician help will allow you to get a customised diet regimen that would bridge any nutritional gap.
Also, health care experts recommend micronutrient supplements at the time of diagnosis of celiac disease, as most patients are found to be deficient.
Are Meat, Milk, And Eggs From Wheat-Fed Animals Safe To Consume?
Yes, these products from wheat eating animals are absolutely safe for consumption.
Can I Eat Oats?
Oats do not contain gluten; however, it contains a protein called avenin which is similar to gluten, but studies have shown that most people with celiac disease can safely eat avenin.
But one of the common issue with oats and oats products available in the markets are , these products are often contaminated with gluten from wheat, rye, or barley during processing. Therefore, it is best to buy oats that are labelled as gluten-free.
Can I Eat Food Containing Gluten Occasionally?
No, there are no special circumstances when it comes to celiac disease. The body takes some time to react to gluten and you also may feel normal to start off, but the immune system is still badly affected and intestinal villi are inflamed, thus it is not ideal to add gluten-rich foods.
Is Soy Sauce Gluten-Free?
No, generally soy sauce is made with wheat which makes it unsuitable for people with celiac disease. Also, if wheat flour has been used as an ingredient, then it should be listed on the food label. However, these days gluten-free versions are available in supermarkets.