I got sick a lot because I had accepted the fact that usually, after I eat, I don’t feel well. I would crave something, eat it, and then regret it. Even if I only ate a small portion, I would feel uncomfortably full, and often get sick. I got hives all over my arms, legs, and torso constantly. It was also not uncommon for me to sport freakishly large bruises that I could not account for, as well a multiple small bruises on my arms and legs. My heart would “flutter” and change speeds randomly. Milk made my stomach hurt. I was constantly irritable for no reason, and I would be fatigued before I even thought about working out.
If any of that sounds familiar to you then it might means that you have Celiac. Celiac Disease (also celiac sprue, nontropical sprue, and gluten-sensitive enteropathy) is a hereditary autoimmune disease that manifests in a chronic and permanent sensitivity to the food protein gluten. It is an Autoimmune Disease in which the body attacks itself in an inappropriate immune system reaction to a perceived body invader.
Once thought to be a rare “wasting” disease, it is now known that about one percent of the world’s population has Celiac disease, but about 97% of those people are undiagnosed. This is frightening because of the severity of the disease, and the implications that come when it is left undiagnosed. Celiac disease has been linked to lupus, lymphoma, liver disease, neurological problems, seizures, and many other potentially life threatening complications.
Celiac disease, when undiagnosed, can wreak internal havoc on your body and cause a list of symptoms a mile long. The only current treatment for the disease is a strict gluten free diet. Gluten is a protein molecule found in lots of foods like wheat, barley, rye etc. This may sound simple enough, but it can be quite frustrating, especially when you throw in the fact that cross contamination or ingestion of a very small amount of gluten can do visible damage to the small intestines. Also, the FDA does not currently require gluten to be listed under allergen warnings on labels, so shopping can be a nightmare.
Gluten Free Diet and Weight Loss – The Fad Diet Misconception
Because of the fact that celiac disease is highly under-diagnosed, and awareness of the disease, although still very lacking, has been growing exponentially in recent years, many people mistakenly think of it as one of the latest diet trends. The term “diet” actually refers to a way of eating, not a way to lose weight. Although removing gluten from a diet can be beneficial to many people, it is by no means a weight loss program. As a matter of fact, many people with celiac disease may gain weight as they begin healing, due to the fact that their bodies have been malnourished and are now absorbing nutrients that they have been lacking. So, when people mistake this way of life for the latest trend in weight loss, cheating seems like no big deal.
There is much discussion about whether or not going on a gluten-free diet for non-medical reasons is a waste of money. Many people spend on expensive gluten-free foods that actually contains more carbohydrates, sugar, and therefore calories than their gluten-containing counterparts. But this hasn’t stopped a number of Hollywood celebrities from continuing to use a gluten free diet to lose and maintain weight loss. Miley Cyrus is one such celebrity to say that her new skinnier figure is due to going gluten-free. This Disney TV star claims that she had to eliminate gluten because of an allergy but has been quoted as saying that everyone should try it.
For everyone calling me anorexic I have a gluten and lactose allergy. It’s not about weight it’s about health. Gluten is crapppp anyway!
— Miley Ray Cyrus (@MileyCyrus) April 9, 2012
But should everyone take the advice of a Disney child celebrity? Shes not the only celeb to claim health and weight loss benefits from avoiding wheat, barley and rye though. Others include Gwyneth Paltrow and Oprah, who have adopted the diet for weight loss, clearer skin and a healthier feel overall. Gluten free products are so easy to obtain now, cropping up in greater and greater numbers on the supermarket shelves. Great news for celiac sufferers of course but all these products are more expensive than gluten containing alternatives, some very much so.
A recent survey carried out by Time magazine found that the restricted diets popularity is due to the fact that most people are gluten-free for the wrong reasons . Whilst only about 1 in 133 people have celiac disease, about 10% of people thought that they might have a mild or severe intolerance to Gluten. The poll also found that nearly 50% of people thought that gluten free meant healthier, and 30% bought gluten-free foods in order to manage their weight.
Although its true that giving up things like pizza, pasta, and bread will result in less carbs, substituting them with alternative gluten free products is likely to result in merely change from one carbohydrate source to another. Gluten free breads, biscuits, cakes and bagels are still full of carbs and therefore calories.
But there is another reason for believing that a gluten-free diet is beneficial whether you have allergies or not. A recent study discovered looked at over 3,000 individuals found that those with a gluten sensitivity who didn’t know about it had fewer gastrointestinal issues and general improvement of heath when they were placed on a gluten-free diet. And then there’s the effect you get from just believing a gluten-free diet is helpful. The trainer of tennis pro Novak Djokovic says a strict gluten-free diet has helped him lose weight and overcome mental blocks to vastly improve his game. The trainer says that other people may benefit from gluten-free diets, even if its only due to a placebo effect, and some experts agree. “If you believe in a cause of your disorder, it becomes the cause,” says David Levitsky , a professor of nutrition and psychology at Cornell University. “We see this in many different studies. If you believe it, you change your behavior in the direction of being cured.”
Its important to realize that gluten-free doesn’t equal low-carb or healthier. You wont necessarily lose weight from eating a gluten-free diet and you may just be restricting your diet for no good reason. However, if you think you may have a gluten sensitivity, eliminating it from your diet may help you feel better. for whatever reason. Just make sure that you stick to whole, unprocessed foods and fresh fruits and vegetables. After all, if you feel better for doing something it doesn’t really matter if its all in your head.
Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity vs. Celiac Disease
There are many people who have been diagnosed with an allergy to gluten or wheat, or who know on their own that they feel better without gluten in their diets. Their overall health, or that of their child, improves with a gluten-free lifestyle, and therefore they stick to it as a general rule of thumb. They may adhere strictly and diligently, and some may be somewhat lax on the rules. This varies from case to case. Some may be able to sneak a little gluten in without major repercussions, but others may not find the risk worth taking. The range of reasons vary as widely as the enforcement of the diet, from stomach issues to improvements in the behavior of autistic children. However, this condition is not be taken lightly!
For those with celiac disease, there really isn’t any choice. Many people do not understand how “just a little gluten” on a rare occasion could do much harm. Simply put, each time even a very small amount of gluten is consumed, an autoimmune reaction is triggered and the person’s body does damage to itself. The intestinal walls become damaged, and recovering and returning back to normal may take some time. As an example, a person with celiac disease cannot use the same tub of butter as a gluten eating person who butters their toast. The small amount of gluten that a person with celiac disease or even non-celiac gluten sensitivity can ingest from cross contamination can cause them to become sick for days or longer. If the diet is not strictly adhered to, or cross contamination continues to be a problem, serious medical consequences may lay ahead.
Now this, in no way, means that non-celiac gluten sensitivity is any less serious than celiac disease. The sensitivity levels may vary, and many times, be just as detrimental as celiac. Awareness of both conditions is the key to a friendlier gluten-free environment.
Gluten Free At School – Protecting Your Child
Your child’s school will have to be involved in his/her gluten free diet if its to work. It is important to bring the school on board in a positive and sympathetic way rather than alienate them. Remember that it will involve some commitment and effort from them and your goal is to have their willing co-operation.
Get a letter from you doctor confirming the diagnosis and explaining the condition. Go a step further if your doctor will agree, by having him/her explain the specific dietary requirements needed to maintain the condition: a strict, cross-contamination-free, gluten-free diet for life. This doctors proof should be enough for most schools to agree to accommodate your child’s needs. However, if you run into difficulty with the school accepting your child’s needs, do pursue the matter through the schools dispute policy and enlist the support of an advocate if necessary.
Meet with those responsible for supervising food at your child’s school. This could be anyone from the teacher (for younger children), to dining room workers. Meet with as many of these people as possible, and lay out as clearly what accommodations you are looking for. Explain to them in simple terms what the dietry issue is, how it affects your child and what they need to be careful of in respect of food consumption. These conversations will vary based on the age of the child but the gist will be relatively the same: “Please Keep gluten away from any food that you are going to feed to my child, and always double-check the foods safety with him/her, me or the school nurse before putting it on my child’s plate”.
It is wise to have these conversations with the school at the beginning of each school year to keep everyone up to date. Do remember to always be positive and polite and to keep the line of communication open with your school. If you are understanding and appreciative you’re more likely to get a positive reception from the school and school staff. Assess what your school is prepared to help with and your personal wants/needs list, then find a happy medium between the two. There is no one answer on how to work with your school to make gluten-free eating safe or feasible. It will depend on what you need and what your school is equipped to offer.
Can A Gluten Free Diet Harm You?
Gluten free diets abound and its not just celiac sufferers who are on them. Gluten free diets have become fashionable since Hollywood luminaries such as Oprah, Victoria Beckham and Gwynneth Paltrow have been enthusing about them. However, gluten-free products don’t contain less calories and are often considerably more expensive than ordinary foods Many people who buy them are probably wasting their money, according to recent Italian research.
Worldwide, the market for gluten-free products is $2.5 billion and rising, spurred on, says Dr. Roberto Corazza of the University of Pavia , in part by the Internet. Questionable scientists with ties to the industry and alternative medicine gurus have contributed to the idea that the gluten free diet is a healthier one and can assist with weight loss.
As a component of the protein mixture in wheat, rye and barley flour, gluten is very commonly found in everyday foodstuffs.
For people with autoimmune disorder foods that contain gluten may result in trigger ing the immune system to attack the tiny structure that is lining the intestine. The only option left for them is the gluten free diet.
However, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that following a gluten free diet will be of benefit to anyone who isn’t sensitive to gluten.
Self prescription of a gluten free diet could actually be harmful and lead to problems says Dr. Corazza in an interview with the Annals Of International Medicine. Celiac disease is only found in approximately 1% of the population. A poorly constructed dietary regime could be missing essential nutrients and this will lead to health problems over time.
Anxiety over imagined health problems could become a social health problem. People who experience symptoms such as stomach cramps, boating, flatulence and diarrhea should contact a medical health professional rather that rush to self diagnosis and a gluten free diet, and risk worsening their health.
Alcohol and the Gluten Free Diet
Almost all beers are brewed with barley (and sometimes wheat), and are therefore, not suitable for the gluten-avoider. Sorghum beers are available, but remain very much a speciality product and will be hard to find. Fortunately, spirits distilled from gluten-containing ingredients, such as whisky, gin, vodka tequila, and bourbon, etc., which are all distilled from grains, are safe to drink. This is because the distillation process removes all traces of gluten from the product.
Other alcoholic beverages such as wines, including sherry and port, cider and vermouth are also safe to dink (in moderation of course!). Liqueurs and premixed drinks should be treated with caution, the ingredients carefully examined for gluten containing products.
Gluten Free Snacks
A problem soon discovered when you’re new to the gluten-free diet is that it can be difficult to ensure that you always have safe food options available when away from home. Its at all easy to find something safe to eat in any given situation you find yourself in. Only by planning ahead can you ensure that you don’t end up scoffing chocolate bars or biscuits because you’re so hungry you’d eat anything. So save yourself stress and anxiety by having a plan for always having access to appropriate snack foods available to you so that you don’t have to go hungry, no matter where you are or what situation you find yourself in.
Fresh fruit is an obvious choice but not always convenient due to the limited life of most fruits when toted around in a variety of bags. Proprietary gluten-free snack bars are another convenient choice and its always handy to have a few of these in your pantry ready to grab when you’re going out. Also fruit strips. The kind made from real fruit of course rather than the sugary concoctions that might have similar packaging. However, these can be quite expensive when consumed regularly so homemade options should be considered. Check out the menu below.
For savoury snacks, its easy to store small packets of potato chips, rice crackers, popcorn and the proprietary gluten free savoury snacks that can be found in health food stores and most larger supermarkets. Stock up on these. Its always better to have more than you need than not enough. Always have something for the unexpected trip or play date. After all, nobody likes to be left out and if you’re well stocked, nobody has to be.
Filling the school luch box will be an issue as most kids have snack foods included and expect to be able to sit with their peers and eat and share snacks. Following is a sample gluten free snack resipe
Homemade Granola Bar Recipe
Use this recipe as the base for your bars. Add fruits, nuts, seeds, grated coconut and chocolate chips to choice.gluten-free-snacks
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons golden syrup
2 1/3 cups quick-cooking oats
Your choice of dried fruits, nuts, seeds, choc chips, etc.
Grease a 20cm x 20cm. In a pan combine the butter, brown sugar, honey, and golden syrup. Stir constantly over medium heat until butter melts, sugar dissolves, and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and add oats. Stir well until oats are well coated. Spread mixture into the pan. Bake at 180 degrees for 22 minutes. Cool 5 minutes and cut into bars. Cool for about 1 hour more in the pan and then remove bars from the pan. (If you wait to cut and remove the bars from the pan until the pan is completely cooled, the bars will be very hard to remove).
Feel free to experiment with your added fruit, nuts etc. Try different amounts and variations to taste.
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Nobody wants to be restricted to a gluten free diet but if you are its great to have choice. There are many new and innovative products coming on the market all the time that are designed to make life more interesting and pleasurable for people who have to be careful about what they eat. The Internet is a great place to get this information easily and for free.
Gluten Free Foods You Can Eat
|Safe gluten-free foods Listed in Alphabetical order|
Apple Cider Vinegar
Aspartame (can cause IBS symptoms)
Baking Soda & Powder (check)
Bean Romano (Chickpea)
Bicarbonate of Soda (check)
Butter (check additives)
|Calcium Silicate |
Canola Oil (Rapeseed Oil)
Carageenan Chondrus Crispus
Carob Bean Gum
Cassava Manihot Esculenta
Corn Syrup Solids
Cotton Seed Oil
Cream of Tartar
|Distilled Vinegar |
Fruit (including dried)
Glutamine (amino acid)
Gram flour (chick peas)
Hydrolyzed soy protein
Kasha (roasted buckwheat)
Kudzu Root Starch
|Locust Bean Gum|
Mono and Diglycerides
Monosodium Glutamate MSG (made in USA)
Nuts (except wheat, rye & barley)
Oils and Fats
Pea - Chick
Pea - Cow
Propylene Glycol Monosterate
Romano Bean (chickpea)
Saifun (bean threads)
Seed - Sesame
Seed - Sunflower
Seeds (except wheat, rye & barley)
Soba (be sure its 100% buckwheat)
Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Gluten Free Foods You Cannot Eat
|Unsafe gluten-free foods Listed in Alphabetical order|
|Abyssinian Hard (Wheat triticum durum)|
Alcohol (Spirits - Specific Types)
Amp-Isostearoyl Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein
Barley Grass (can contain seeds)
Barley Hordeum vulgare
Blue Cheese (made with bread)
Bulgur (Bulgar Wheat/Nuts)
Club Wheat (Triticum aestivum subspecies compactum)
Common Wheat (Triticum aestivum)
Disodium Wheatgermamido Peg-2 Sulfosuccinate
Durum wheat (Triticum durum)
Einkorn (Triticum monococcum)
Emmer (Triticum dicoccon)
Flour (normally this is wheat)
Fu (dried wheat gluten)
|Gravy Cubes |
Groats (barley wheat)
Hydrolyzed Wheat Gluten
Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein
Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein Pg-Propyl Silanetriol
Hydrolyzed Wheat Starch
Hydroxypropyltrimonium Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein
Kamut (Pasta wheat)
Macha Wheat (Triticum aestivum)
Modified Food Starch
Monosodium Glutimate (MSG)
Oriental Wheat (Triticum turanicum)
Persian Wheat (Triticum carthlicum)
Polish Wheat (Triticum polonicum)
Poulard Wheat (Triticum turgidum)
Rice Malt (if barley or Koji are used)
Shot Wheat (Triticum aestivum)
Shoyu (soy sauce)
Spelt (Triticum spelta)
Spirits (Specific Types)
Sprouted Wheat or Barley
Stearyldimoniumhydroxypropyl Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein
Suet in Packets
Textured Vegetable Protein - TVP
Timopheevi Wheat (Triticum timopheevii)
Triticale X triticosecale
Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Flour Lipids
Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Germ Extract
Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Germ Oil
Udon (wheat noodles)
Vavilovi Wheat (Triticum aestivum)
Wheat (Triticum Vulgare) Bran Extract
Wheat Abyssinian Hard triticum durum
Wheat amino acids
Wheat Bran Extract
Wheat Durum Triticum
Wheat Germ Extract
Wheat Germ Glycerides
Wheat Germ Oil
Wheat Germamidopropyldimonium Hydroxypropyl Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein
Wheat Grass (can contain seeds)
Wheat Triticum aestivum
Wheat Triticum Monococcum
Wild Einkorn (Triticum boeotictim)
Wild Emmer (Triticum dicoccoides)
Wrapping It Up:
10 years ago, the idea of a “cure” for celiac disease was unthinkable because scientists and researchers knew so little about the biological mechanism of celiac disease in genetically predisposed individuals.
Now their knowledge is much deeper, and there are several alternative approaches to the current treatment of the gluten-free diet currently being studied. The distinction needs to be made that these treatments are not a “cure” but alternative methods of treating the condition of celiac disease.
Always remember that anytime you make decisions about your health, there are pros and cons. There is no question that for someone with celiac disease, the gluten-free diet can improve health and quality of life.
For someone with gluten sensitivity, feeling better on the gluten-free diet is a plus for his or her quality of life. For someone without a gluten-related disorder, having a healthy diet that meets their nutritional needs is the most important consideration.
References & Citations