In the past few years I have heard a lot of buzz around a Gluten-Free Diet. There are a few people I have met that are very passionate about being healthier and choose to eat gluten-free because they think that it is healthier or better for them. Unfortunately for them (and their wallets), this is not the case at all.
A Gluten-free diet is actually for people who suffer from a digestive disease called Celiac Disease. When people have this disease, their bodies cannot digest or absorb the protein gluten found in wheat, rye, and barley. People with Celiac Disease also usually cannot eat oats because they are often contaminated with gluten (unless grown in a special field). There are also many food products that contain ingredients that come from these grains – yogurt, salad dressing, taco seasoning packets, and flaked potatoes, to name a few. Here is a link to common foods containing gluten that I developed with at Northern Illinois University.
When people with Celiac Disease eat a gluten-containing product, their body mounts an immune response against the gluten in their small intestines. If this goes untreated, the lining of the small intestines (which absorbs the food you eat) is destroyed and people can suffer from malabsorption of all foods, not just gluten-containing foods. Some people also have systemic (whole body) responses, such as rashes, hives, and acne. People suffering from Celiac Disease will have symptoms similar to those diagnosed as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), which may include diarrhea, constipation, abdominal bloating/pain, unexplained weight loss, foul-smelling stool, and vomiting. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should see your physician and ask to be tested for Celiac Disease.
There is good news for people living with Celiac Disease. Food companies have seen the need to develop gluten-free products and there are now a variety of gluten-free choices! These products can be expensive ($8 for a loaf of rice bread with only 12-16 slices) and have a different taste that the original products. Food companies often have to add extra fat to make the product less dry and stay together. These foods are often higher in calories than the original product, so you do need to watch for weight gain. There are now many food bloggers who are living with Celiac Disease and are passionate about sharing their recipes. I highly recommend looking through the Gluten-Free Girl’s website. I am a huge advocate of making food from scratch – it tastes better, is usually better for you, and you know what is in it!