Gluten is a protein, the insoluble component of grains (such as wheat, barley, and rye). It is a mixture of gliadin, glutenin, and other proteins. Gluten causes allergy-like reactions in certain people. While the gluten-free lifestyle is the primary therapeutic treatment for celiac disease
, this lifestyle may also help a host of other conditions, including:
•Autism (most common diet is GFCF - gluten-free/caseine free)
•IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
Check carefully—Learn the many names that gluten can be found under and read labels carefully
to ensure you are buying products that are truly gluten-free.
Be thorough—In order to eliminate symptoms altogether you have to get rid of all sources of gluten, not just in your food. For those with celiac disease this is a diet that must be followed for the rest of your life.
Get support—It can be a long and difficult process to convert to a gluten-free diet. Enlist the help of trained health professionals and support groups with local chapters like the Celiac Sprue Association and the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America. Forums (like this one) can also be very helpful in finding out specific information about a particular product, store or cookbook. Additionally, you can find many recipes here to help you in your journey.
Go gluten-free: Choose
grains like amaranth, buckwheat, corn, quinoa, rice, and sorghum, and starches like arrowroot, potato, soy, and tapioca as substitutes for gluten-containing products. You can also try using nut flours (nuts ground into flour or "meal").
Why do people follow this diet?
People follow it for various reasons but the most common is Celiac disease (also called gluten enteropathy). This is a disorder of the small intestine characterized by sensitivity to gluten. In people with celiac disease, eating gluten causes inflammation in and damage to the lining of the small intestine. The result of this damage can be diarrhea, malabsorption, fat in the stool, and nutritional and vitamin deficiencies.
A gluten-free diet is the primary treatment for celiac disease. Strict avoidance of wheat, barley, and rye (the three most abundant sources of gluten) usually improves gastrointestinal symptoms within a few weeks, although in some cases improvement may take many months. People with celiac disease must remove all gluten-containing foods from their diets in order to relieve symptoms. Following a gluten-free diet has been shown to reduce the incidence of cancer, low bone mineral density, and infertility in persons with celiac disease.
People with dermatitis herpetiformis may benefit from following a gluten-free diet. The cause of dermatitis herpetiformis is mainly an allergic-type reaction. Gluten-sensitivity enteropathy is found in 75 to 90% of people with dermatitis herpetiformis. Unlike celiac disease, however, gastrointestinal symptoms are mild or absent. Strict adherence to a lifelong gluten-free diet can eliminate dermatitis herpetiformis symptoms and intestinal abnormalities, as well as reduce or eliminate the need for medication in most people. However, an average of 8 to 12 months of dietary restriction may be necessary before symptoms resolve. Not all people with dermatitis herpetiformis improve on a gluten-free diet. Preliminary studies indicate sensitivity to other dietary proteins may be involved.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that people with psoriasis may improve on a hypoallergenic diet. Three trials have reported that eliminating gluten (as found in wheat, rye, and barley) improved psoriasis for some people. A doctor can help people with psoriasis determine whether gluten or other foods are contributing to their skin condition.
Preliminary evidence suggests that a gluten-free diet may help improve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. In one trial, 14 weeks of a gluten-free (no wheat, rye or barley), pure vegetarian diet, gradually changed to a lactovegetarian diet (permitting dairy), led to significant improvement in rheumatoid arthritis as evidenced by associated symptoms as well as by objective laboratory measures of disease.
HIV enteropathy, a complication of AIDS that is characterized by weight loss and chronic diarrhea, may respond to a gluten-free diet. In a preliminary trial, men with HIV enteropathy experienced a reduction in the number of episodes of diarrhea as well as significant weight gain while following a gluten-free diet.
For many years, researchers have been speculating that certain dietary proteins, including gluten, may contribute to the symptoms of schizophrenia. People with schizophrenia are more likely to have immune-system reactions to gluten than the general population, according to some studies. While clinical research findings have been inconsistent, some, but not all, people with schizophrenia may benefit from a gluten-free (and dairy-free) diet.
There is research on Autism, Diabetes, IBS, Crohn's, and Ulcerative Colitis that suggests that a gluten-free diet is helpful. There are groups that support a GFCF (gluten-free / caseine free) diet for autistic children.
What are the symptoms?
Individuals who are sensitive to gluten may have one or more of the following symptoms:
•Abdominal cramping and pain
•Bloating and flatulence
•Bone and joint pain
•Delayed growth or short stature
•Emotional disturbances, such as anxiety and depression
•Painful skin rash
•Tingling in hands in feet
What do I need to avoid?
To avoid gluten, ask about ingredients at restaurants and others’ homes, and read food labels. Avoid questionable products until the manufacturer guarantees they are gluten-free. Recheck products regularly as ingredients may change.
Beginning in 2006, food labels in the US must accurately declare in a special “allergy statement” if wheat protein, even in small amounts, is present in an ingredient used in that food. However, this regulation does not
pertain to other gluten-containing grains, so labels must still be checked carefully for those sources.
At home, care should be taken to keep gluten-containing foods used by other members of the household from contaminating cooking appliances, food-preparation surfaces, utensils, shared condiment jars, and so forth.
The following list is not complete
. Consult with a healthcare professional before making any significant changes to your diet. Grains and grain products to avoid (check ingredients of breads, breading, cereals, coating mixes, crackers, croutons, fried snacks, muffins, pasta, pastries, stuffing, and so on):
•Faro (farro) a type of wheat
•Flour: any made from grains on this list; bread, brown, durum, granary, strong, and whole-meal flour usually indicate flours containing gluten
•Oats and oat bran*
*While oats contain a substance similar to gluten, modern research has found that eating moderate amounts of oats does not appear to cause problems for people with celiac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis. However, oats may be contaminated with gluten from other grains during processing; therefore using only oat products that have been tested and guaranteed to be free of gluten is recommended.
Other food products and ingredients that may contain gluten (check labels or manufacturer for ingredients from the list above):
•Ale, beer, stout, lager
•Brown rice syrup (some are gluten-free)
•Flavored instant coffee
•Gravy cubes and mixes
•Hot chocolate mixes
•Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (also called hydrolyzed plant protein or protein hydrolysate) if made from wheat
•Imitation bacon and seafood
•Malt vinegar (distilled vinegars are gluten-free)
•Nondairy cream substitutes
•Nuts, dry roasted
•Prepared meats (bologna, lunch ham, and so on)
•Sauces and sauce mixes
•Soup and soup mixes
•Soy sauce and shoyu tamari
•Starch, when labeled as wheat starch, modified food starch, or vegetable starch
•Suet in packets
Be careful of the following personal and over-the-counter items, which may contain small amounts of gluten:
•Glue (US-made envelope glue is reportedly gluten-free)
•Lipstick, gloss, and balms
•Prescription and over-the-counter medications listing gluten, starch, flour, or dusting powder as excipients
•Supplements listing gluten, starch, flour, or dusting powder as excipients
Best Bets - Food You Can Eat
•Bean or pea flours
•Fruit, not dried or in commercial pie fillings
•Meat, poultry, fish not processed with gluten-containing addititives, not breaded, and without gravies or sauces
•Milk products, not malted or flavored
•Nut and seed flours (such as almond flour, hazelnut flour)
•Oats (make sure they say "gluten-free" - can become cross contaminated in processing), some celiacs cannot eat them either way.
•Vegetables, not creamed or breaded
*Buckwheat does not actually contain wheat and is gluten-free.
While wheat is one of the major gluten-containing grains, it is important to remember that “wheat-free” does not mean “gluten-free.” Make sure to carefully read food labels to determine if an item features gluten-containing items.
Prepare a note card with the foods that you need to avoid and bring this with you when food shopping or dining in restaurants. Communicate your special needs to the waiter or manager so that they can guide you to dishes that do not contain gluten.
Gluten allergies can often start in childhood as a result of early feeding of grains; consider breast-feeding your child for the first six months.
Be careful when buying grains from bulk bins. Make sure that the grains are adequately separated from the gluten-containing grains in order to avoid cross-contamination.
Some celiacs have found that flour used to help the machinery run more smoothly is not listed in the ingredients. However, many manufacturers will now state whether or not their products are gluten-free. If you have doubt, contact the manufacturer. Most will understand your concerns and answer your questions.