Gluten Allergy Or Sensitivity?
Many years ago, prior to my diagnosis with Hashimoto's disease (an autoimmune condition that attacks the thyroid) I was tested for Celiac disease. It came back negative and I was told I had no issues with eating gluten. I was suffering with many symptoms such as brain fogginess, bloating, digestive issues, and muscle aches and pains. Even after my diagnosis with Hashimoto's, I was told I could eat whatever I wanted by my doctor. This simply was not true, at least if I was going to alleviate my symptoms.
If you have found that when you eat certain foods with gluten, such as wheat bread or baked goods, that you feel ill, but have not tested positive for Celiac disease, you might be struggling with gluten sensitivity, as opposed to an allergy. This is often referred to non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and is much more common than you might think.
Gluten Intolerance VS Celiac Disease
Unless you have been living under a rock, you have undoubtedly seen or heard many people saying they are reducing their gluten or giving it up altogether. In some cases, people actually have allergies or a condition called Celiac disease, which is causing gluten to make them ill. Others simply have a sensitivity or intolerance to gluten. The latter is more common, so that is what we are going to talk about.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a type of protein that is found in a variety of different grains. Many people think about wheat as being gluten, but it can also be found in rye, oats, and barley. The gluten protein is made up of other proteins, including glutenin and gliadin. These are often more closely linked to people that have negative reactions in the form of a gluten allergy or Celiac disease, which is an autoimmune condition of the small intestine. The symptoms are slightly different when comparing an intolerance or sensitivity to gluten as opposed to actually being allergic to it.
How to Know You Have a Sensitivity
When you have an intolerance to gluten, your symptoms can range from mild discomfort and abdominal pain, to some of the more common signs of being allergic to gluten. You might find that you have abdominal discomfort or indigestion when you consume foods with wheat or rye. There are actually many regular food items that contain wheat or other grains that you would otherwise think are harmless. You may eat a simple sandwich with wheat bread and suddenly find that your stomach is hurting and you might even have diarrhea or nausea. Some other common symptoms include headaches, skin changes, and allergy symptoms like coughing, sneezing, and runny nose.
If you are found to have a gluten sensitivity, it is best to eliminate all gluten containing foods. The more foods you eat with gluten, the worse you are going to feel. If you want those stomach aches, migraines, brain fogginess, muscles aches, etc. to go away, then avoid foods with gluten. This includes most breads, grains, pasta, and a wide range of packaged and processed foods.
Tips for Eating Without Gluten
Now that you understand a little more about what gluten is and how it affects your body if you have an intolerance to it, it is time to figure out what exactly you can eat. This is a new lifestyle, so don't treat it like something you only do when convenient.
Before discussing what you can eat when you have a gluten intolerance or sensitivity, it helps to understand exactly what foods are going to contain gluten. It is found in grains like wheat, rye, barley, couscous, bulgur, semolina, triticale, spelt, and many others. This means the majority of cold cuts, commercial broth and bouillon, malt, soup, breads, salad dressings, sauces, condiments, processed cheese, and processed foods will have it. Some food items you need to replace are:
* Condiments and salad dressings
* Canned beans
* Processed meat like hot dogs
* Non-dairy creamer
* Egg substitutes
* Granola and trail mix
* Energy bars
* Ice cream
* Fruit filling and pudding
* Cereals and breads
At first, it may look like you have to cut out all your favorite foods. I understand, I've been there! But, there is so much you can eat on a gluten free diet. I was overwhelmed at first at the thought of cutting out gluten, but now I have found delicious foods and healthy alternatives to all my favorite gluten containing products. Below, I've attached a gluten free food list to get you started. Please understand that not all individuals will be able to tolerate all the foods on the list simply because they are gluten free.
If you have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease or need to understand and navigate the ins and outs of gluten, please contact me.
To your health & happiness,