Going Gluten-Free

Gluten sensitivity and celiac disease are the first indicators you should go on a gluten-free diet. Gluten is a protein which gives elasticity and shape to dough and can be found in wheat and grains, such as rye and barley. Besides food, it is used in cosmetics and dermatological products.

When should you go gluten-free?

If you have noticed strange reactions of your body, such as abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea or stomach upset, you might be sensitive to gluten. Go and see a doctor immediately. If there is a suspicion to gluten sensitivity, the doctor will recommend you run blood tests which will prove if you are sensitive to gluten or not, or even if you have celiac disease. Intestinal biopsy is another step if blood has proven gluten intolerance or celiac disease. Celiac disease is a medical condition, an “autoimmune disorder of the small intestine”. This disease transmits genetically, so the odds are if it runs in the family, you will have it too. It can start in infancy to all stages in life. Its symptoms are fatigue, anaemia, vitamin deficiency, pain and discomfort in digestive tract. Due to this disease, the small intestine is unable to absorb nutrients from food which contains flour, that is gliadin, a gluten protein which can be found in common grains such as barley and rye. Celiac disease damages the intestine, unlike gluten sensitivity, which does not.

How to go gluten-free?

If you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, your doctor will prescribe you a gluten-free diet. The first step in this diet is avoiding gluten, that is you have to stop using it immediately, because even a small amount can cause diarrhoea, gases and bloating. A gluten-free diet means you must avoid food which contains flour from wheat, rye, barley – and this means bread, pizza, pasta, crackers, cereals, peanut butter – in other words, anything which contains gluten. Some people with celiac disease can eat oats, but it would be best if you avoided it until your condition is well controlled with your new diet. Milk is another thing on the list you should avoid, at least for the first six months, until your small intestine heals. However, this does not mean you must avoid all dairy products – you can eat cheese, for example, if it does not contain gluten. You should avoid sugar and use safe sweeteners which do not affect insulin levels, such as xylitol. You are allowed to eat eggs, canned fruit and vegetables which do not contain thickening agents, fresh meat (as well as frozen or canned), flour made with corn, potatoes, rice, soybeans, and amaranth.

Basically, what you should dedicate your life to is reading the labels because they will show you what food does (not) contain gluten in additives such as “hydrolysed vegetable protein” and “modified food starch”. Even though some labels will read wheat-free, they can also contain gluten, so you must always read the them carefully and do some research about the presence of gluten. Restrict your diet and clean the kitchen up to avoid accidental contact with gluten, and your recovery can start.