Contributed by Elise Herzog
Gluten-free. It’s all the rage! It seems that everywhere you
turn people are opting for a gluten-free diet. For some, it’s for medical
reasons, perhaps because they’ve been diagnosed with Celiac disease or as being
gluten intolerant. For others, it is simply a dietary choice. But, no matter
what, starting the process can be a bit overwhelming. What should you know prior
to starting? What foods can you have and what can’t you have? What are the pros
and cons of a gluten-free diet? These issues, and more, will be addressed in
this article, but perhaps we’d best start by defining gluten and a gluten-free
diet and discussing why it’s the “in” thing to do.
Gluten Free: What
is it and Why Are People Flocking to it?
According to Wikipedia, “a gluten-free dietis a diet free of gluten…a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, malts and triticale. Additionally, a
gluten-free diet may exclude oats. The term gluten-free is generally used to indicate a
supposed harmless level of gluten rather than a complete absence. The term "gluten" technically refers to a specific complex of
proteins that forms when wheat flour is mixed with a liquid and physically
manipulated, such as in the kneading of bread. 
Most people go gluten-free because they suffer from Celiac
disease, an autoimmune disease in which they can’t tolerate gluten or are
allergic to it. For these individuals, gluten can actually be toxic, causing
the lining of the small intestine to become inflamed and damaged. This, in
turn, causes numerous uncomfortable and/or painful symptoms. These symptoms can
include an upset stomach, abdominal pain and bloating. Currently, the only treatment
for Celiac disease is to go gluten-free. However, it is not uncommon for people
who suffer from any of these same symptoms to actually test negative for Celiac
disease. As a result, going gluten-free is becoming enormously popular –
although there isn’t definitive evidence of any health benefits – because more
and more people claim that it gives them more energy, helps them lose weight
and/or just makes them feel more healthy overall. Research is also being
conducted regarding whether a gluten-free diet can help people with ADHD,
autism and headaches.
How to Begin
Although more information continues to become available, opting
to go gluten-free can be a bit overwhelming. But, it doesn’t have to be. There
are some basic steps that can help:
by making sure you thoroughly understand what gluten and a gluten-free
familiar with gluten-free websites.
by completely cleaning out your kitchen of anything containing gluten.
- Make a
list of foods you can and can’t have. This will make grocery shopping and
eating out much easier. You might also make a list of foods you love and
search online for a gluten-free option.
- Because it is essential to identify the processed
foods that contain gluten, you may want to consider, at the beginning,
sticking to unprocessed foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole
grains, meat, poultry and fish.
for gluten-free labels on the product. Numerous grocery stores either have
gluten-free sections (i.e. Whole Foods) or are marking which products are
gluten-free (i.e. Safeway)
how to read labels:
if the food is considered to be gluten-free, look at the bottom of the
label to see if the food was produced in a place that may have wheat or
other gluten ingredients
essential words to look for in order to determine if a product contains
gluten include: wheat, barley, rye, malt, oats and hydrolyzed vegetable
protein (it often contains wheat).
Below is a basic list of gluten-free foods, followed by a list
of foods that do, or may, contain gluten. And, again, there are any number of
websites that continually update these lists.
Plain beef, pork and lamb
Plain fish and shellfish
Plain chicken and turkey
Nuts and seeds
Select flours (rice, soy, corn, potato, bean)
Pure corn tortillas
Most dairy products
Wine and distilled liquors, ciders and spirits
For Gluten-Free Recipes using these ingredients go to foodGizmo's Gluten-Free Recipes.
Foods to Avoid
It is becoming more and more
popular to find gluten-free options for foods we’ve been told to avoid. They
will be deemed safe if they have a gluten-free label or are made with corn,
rice, soy or other gluten-free grain. However, the following are foods that may
need to be avoided:
Spelt (a form of wheat)
Cakes and pies
Imitation meats or seafood
Processed luncheon meats
Sauces (including soy sauce)
Vegetarian meat substitutes
Gluten-free: Pros & Cons
There’s no doubt that the pros
and cons surrounding a gluten-free diet is a popular topic. And, as research
continues to be conducted, more are likely to surface. In order to make an
educated decision as to whether or not this diet is for you, it is recommended
that you take time to explore both the good and bad. The following addresses
some to take into consideration:
A gluten-free diet is
considered to be medically beneficial for a number of diseases:
o Gluten Intolerance: Patients with this allergy cannot
o Celiac disease: This is an autoimmune disease that damages the
intestinal lining when gluten is consumed. Going gluten-free may help save a
Herpetiformis: This chronic skin disease is marked by fluid-filled blisters;
believed to have been triggered by high gluten ingestion.
o Migraines: Numerous patients suffering from these severe
headaches have said that they feel better by going gluten-free. It is possible
that many of them have Celiac disease.
o Autism: The severity of autism may be directly related to
consumption of high gluten. Therefore, children with this disease are often being
kept on a gluten-free diet.
It has been shown to assist in weight loss,
muscle/fat ratio continually improves,
calories come from protein,
may become lower in calories because numerous snacks are not gluten-free and must
be avoided, and
containing gluten, such as bread, pasta and most empty/bulk carbs will be cut
from one’s diet.
Gluten-free is considered to be a healthy diet because
it not only cuts out wheat products, but also a significant amount of processed
food and it increases the intake of fruits, lean meats, root vegetables, etc.
A number of those following a gluten-free diet maintain
that they feel lighter after meals, have more energy and find exercising to be
Many digestive issues may be resolved, even if
one has not been medically shown to be gluten intolerant.
literature and scientific research indicates that people suffering from any of
the following conditions are known to have fewer symptoms and/or a quicker
recovery time when they add a gluten-free diet to their treatment. This
improves digestive health thereby making nutrients more available which, in
turn, accelerates the healing process.
o Rheumatoid arthritis
o Parkinson’s disease
o Down’s syndrome
o Peripheral neuropathy
o Multiple sclerosis
o Ataxia and late-onset Friedreich ataxia
o Brain fog
o Type 2 and Type 1 diabetes and anemia
Adhering to a
gluten-free can prove to be very challenging.
Following a gluten-free
diet for an excessive amount of time may result in several deficiencies in the body.
People may not be able
to eat all the healthy, natural foods rich in required nutrients, because they
contain gluten, and some gluten-free foods are not fortified and do not have a
variety of nutrients. These foods are low in folate, fiber and iron.
Gluten-free foods still
are not always available so patients do not get to consume the minimum
recommended amount of the grains.
Eating Out on a Gluten-free
So now that you’ve figured out how to maintain a gluten-free
diet at home, one of the next challenges is dining out. Years ago this would
have been virtually impossible, but as the diet grows in popularity, it’s
becoming less difficult. More and more restaurants are offering gluten-free
options as part of their menu. Certainly calling the restaurant in question is
the easiest way to gather this information. But, don’t be afraid to ask your
server questions about their menu, whether they serve any gluten-free dishes
and if they can modify any of their items in order to accommodate your needs.
And, the number of websites devoted to researching this for you continues to
grow. Below are a few of the more popular sites that offer eating out tips and
names of restaurants:
(while based in Denver this site has a list of gluten-free restaurants to be found in a number of
As gluten-free becomes a more viable choice, the information
surrounding this diet continues to become more readily accessible. As such,
foodGizmo is dedicated to posting news that may be of interest. We hope
you’ll check back with us on a regular basis and let us know if there are items
of which you’d like to see more coverage. Until then, eat well!