Gluten intolerance reportedly affects around 7% of the total US population, accounting for around 20 million people. The conditions warrant a diet that is gluten free to ensure that individuals do not suffer from the common symptoms associated with gluten sensitivity or intolerance. Special diets are put together which help individuals overcome the problem by carefully choosing ingredients and preparing dishes for consumption. We will take a look at gluten free foods informatively rather than merely listing, which will help you understand why gluten free diets are necessary and how to choose one that works best.
Symptoms of gluten intolerance, that make it necessary for choosing gluten free foods
Gluten intolerance is indicated through many symptoms. The more common symptoms include swollen belly, problems in motion (foul smelling stools, constipation and occasional diarrhea), tiredness, pain in the stomach and head, loss of weight and adverse impact on skin. Various other conditions are also indicative of gluten intolerance/sensitivity that make it necessary to rely on gluten free foods. There are typically three categories of conditions that are attributed to gluten intolerance – celiac disease, non-celiac disease and wheat allergy. The three conditions have slightly different symptoms, but all the conditions are linked to gluten intolerance.
Celiac disease refers to the condition where the response of the body’s autoimmune system creates problems for the individual when gluten enters the body. Non celiac disease refers to the condition when individuals who are not diagnosed with celiac disease have symptoms that are triggered due to gluten. Wheat allergy is the body’s immune response to proteins in wheat, including gluten among other proteins. Before we look at gluten free foods let’s take a deeper look at gluten.
What is gluten? Why is there a demand for gluten free foods?
Gluten is best described as a part of the protein complex that contributes most of the protein in wheat, and most of the cereal grains where gluten is present. Gluten gives wheat products the elasticity that permits dough to rise, in addition to giving food products the distinct texture. It is this texture of wheat products that increase the desirability of the products. Gluten belongs to the group of proteins that are typically known as glutelins and prolamins. The reason behind the demand for gluten free foods is the adverse conditions that are triggered by glutens. This includes inflammation, autoimmune disorders and immunological reactions among individuals with wheat allergy. As a result of the reactions caused by Gluten, individuals with wheat allergy, celiac disease or non-celiac disease opt for gluten free foods.
Gluten intolerance occurs when the body attempts to cope with the presence of gluten proteins by triggering an immune response which in turn results in the degradation of the lining of the intestines. This damage prevents the absorption of nutrients from food, in addition to further manifestation into diarrhea, loss of weight and bloating.
Malabsorption in children over an extended period can result in long term health complications. Gluten intolerance does not have a cure presently and the only option is to stick to a diet that is free from gluten. This helps individuals to overcome the sensitivity and allergies associated with the condition. Treatment options include the management of the allergies and healing of the damaged intestines. The best way to check for presence of celiac disease is to take a blood test which will positively identify the presence or absence of gluten intolerance. This involves the need to consume a diet containing gluten prior to the test, as advised by the doctor/laboratory. The screening will determine if the individual is gluten sensitive. The test basically launches a search for the presence of antibodies that are known to wrongly react to the gluten protein. Following a positive lab report that identifies the individual as having gluten intolerance, a biopsy of the intestine is necessary to understand the extent of damage to the intestine. This helps to commence the treatment required for healing the intestine. This involves the removal of a small tissue sample from the intestine for the biopsy.
Top ten gluten gluten free foods
It is now time to look at the top ten gluten free foods that are recommended for individuals with one of the three conditions – wheat allergy, celiac disease or non-celiac gluten intolerance. There are foods that are naturally gluten free and absolutely safe for individuals to consume without any fear of triggering an adverse reaction.
#1 Eggs – are naturally gluten free foods and individuals with the condition can safely consume eggs in any form without having to fear a reaction. It is important to ensure that eggs are not consumed with food products that have gluten, as mixing the two will take away the benefits of consuming gluten free foods.
#2 Dairy products – are safe to eat as long as other ingredients are not added to the products. In other words, any plan diary product that has not been additionally processed or flavored is safe. Flavoring agents are likely to have ingredients that contain gluten. It is therefore essential to look out for ingredients that could turn naturally gluten free foods into products that are not safe to eat.
#3 Starch/flour – Starches/flour from potato, soy, corn, chickpea, tapioca, coconut and almond are free from gluten. Here again it is important that these products be used without mixing with other ingredients that could contain gluten.
#4 Tea, coffee – Tea and coffee are free from gluten, which make it safe for drinking. Certain types of beer are also free from gluten. However, it may be hard to identify a gluten free beer, if specific labeling is not present. Beer that is free from gluten is specially labeled, and individuals can safely consume only those beers that have been labeled accordingly.
#5 Spices, herbs – are safe and can be included in diets. You can use herbs and spices in your food preparation without apprehensions of triggering a food allergy as all herbs and spices are free from gluten proteins.
#6 Certain grains – constitute gluten free foods and can be safely consumed., For instance, tapioca, sorghum, millet, , corn, buckwheat, rice and quinoa are free from gluten. These can be a part of gluten free diets. However, individuals who wish to consume oats need to carefully look at the labeling to identify if the product is gluten free.
#7 Vegetables , fruits – nature’s bounty is naturally free from gluten and can be safely consumed. This is perhaps one of the most healthy and safest way to go on a gluten free diet, provided the fruits are not consumed alongside other products that could contain gluten.
#8 Nuts, seeds – belong to the category of gluten free foods and can be included in the diet. As nuts and seeds find relatively lesser use in food, it is highly likely that this may not be considered by individuals when identifying products that are free from gluten. However, nuts and seeds are not only free from gluten but are packed with nutrition, that can help individuals stay healthy.
#9 Vegetable oil, butter – both vegetable oil and butter are free from gluten and can be a part of diet of individuals with wheat allergy, celiac disease and non-celiac gluten intolerance. However the mixing of vegetable oils or butter along with other food products that contain gluten is a possibility due to the nature of vegetable oils and butter. It is therefore extremely important to check other ingredients carefully.
List of common products that contain gluten and should be avoided
The list of gluten free foods has to be accompanied with a list of common food products that contain gluten. This will help individuals in staying away from food products that contain gluten which could trigger adverse reactions. Here are two types of common gluten containing food products that most individuals are likely to come across as a matter of routine. The first list comprises food ingredients that contain gluten, while the second list comprises food products that are made with gluten containing ingredients.
Ingredients that contain gluten
These ingredients contain gluten and should be avoided in food preparation of gluten free foods : wheat, wheat germ, rye, barley, and semolina among others. The most common is wheat and wheat germ as these products constitute the bulk of processed food products that are available in the market.
These food products are made with ingredients that contain gluten and should therefore be avoided when individuals are recommended to stick to gluten free foods. As these food products are generic and common in nature, it is essential to carefully identify and steer clear if individuals are diagnosed wheat allergy, celiac disease or non-celiac gluten intolerance. Common food products include : flavoring agents, soups, ketchup, French fries, mayonnaise, soy sauce, processed cheese, egg substitute, sausage, artificial dairy creamer, canned baked beans, breads (unless certified as gluten free), hot dogs, flavored coffees and teas, ice cream, and beer (unless certified as gluten free). Products of this category that are gluten free are specially labeled as GF, and individuals needs to carefully check out the ingredients before picking a product.