by Colette Bell.
Gluten-Free: Diet? Fad? Necessity? Why hadn’t we heard of it before? What’s the difference between celiac disease, gluten-sensitivity, and gluten allergy? Let’s dive in…
First I’ll tell you my story. I can speak on my own behalf and say that I didn’t become unglu’d (go gluten-free) for a fad diet. Trust me I don’t look like someone on a diet. You know the saying, “Never trust a skinny chef.” Well, let’s just say you can trust me! All joking aside, I found out I had a gluten-sensitivity/allergy two-and-a-half years ago. I was so sick in so many ways since having my second child, (thank you, hormonal changes for that new one!) and I at least finally had an answer. For this, I was grateful.
I was experiencing mind-numbing excruciating migraines and digestive problems that would bring a bear to its knees. I knew I had to do something. At first I tried to cut out foods that I thought were bothering me, but I had it all wrong. I’ve grown up with food allergies. Some have stayed, and some have gone away. That’s the peculiar thing with allergies. Finally I caved and went to the doctor after the worst migraine I can recall in my entire life. One that was so bad I debated whether to call my husband home from work, or to call 911 because I thought I might be having some type of stroke. The doctor ran all kinds of tests and sure enough there were some strange occurrences in my blood work. I did not test positive for celiac disease and since there is not a thoroughly definitive test for gluten sensitivity I decided to cut it out of my diet and see what happened. Well, it worked! I haven’t had a migraine since that fateful day I spent on the ice-cold bathroom floor. I had always had an allergy to MSG, so I’m not sure why it never dawned on me to cut out gluten – other than the fact that no one discussed gluten – I’d never even heard of it until probably about 2 weeks before my doctor and I decided that was the course of action we would take.
Now let’s cover a few basics. In later posts I can share with you some amazing recipes that are simple and easy to apply to your every day life, and hopefully help you or your guests in your home.
What is gluten?
From Wikipedia: “Gluten (from Latin gluten, “glue”) is a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and related grain species, including barley and rye. Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape and often gives the final product a chewy texture. Gluten may also be found in some cosmetics, hair products, and other dermatological preparations” (Bet you didn’t know that part, huh? can also be found in gum, chapstick, etc.)
What is the difference between Celiac, and an intolerance & sensitivity to Gluten?
This is a slightly harder question to answer, as there are many similarities & few differences, intolerance and sensitivity are fairly interchangeable words to describe what is basically a food allergy/aversion to gluten.
From About.com: “Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity involve two different responses to the gluten protein, which is found in the grains wheat, barley and rye. However, the symptoms of both conditions are just about identical, which makes it impossible to determine which one you might have (if either one) without the use of medical tests.” “Celiac disease occurs when gluten spurs your immune system to attack the lining of your small intestine. The resulting intestinal damage, called villous atrophy, can cause malnutrition and conditions such as osteoporosis.”
Easiest route to a gluten-free lifestyle:
Buy local, buy organic, the fewer processed foods the better. My personal favorite for local fresh organic produce is South Shore Organics, you will get fresher ingredients and some fun things you won’t find in a chain supermarket. Obviously do not purchase any wheat, rye, or barley. You would think this a simple task, but it’s snuck into so many products and often it appears under different names. For example, “natural flavors” can be wheat. The easiest thing to do is to avoid inner aisles at your grocery store, shop the outside: produce, dairy and meats (you still have to double check some dairy and meats for additives), leave the processed foods alone, until you can become more familiar with what to look for. If you need some boxed items or can’t live without starch, rice, potatoes, and corn are safe alternatives for sides and for bread alternatives, but you must read labels, unless clearly marked gluten-free.
Here are a couple of great reference sites to get you started: From Celiac.com:
Colette Bell: For great recipes & more information on living a gluten-free lifestyle (and even better within a budget), please check out my site www.becomeunglud.wordpress.com and like us on Facebook www.facebook.com/BecomeUnglud.