Gluten-Free Diet: What is it?

A gluten-free diet is unlike a fad diet as it serves the purpose of treating celiac disease. It is recommended for gluten-intolerant people that have special dietary and nutrient requirements. Despite it being the only solution to sufferers of celiac disorder, a doctor should always be consulted for proper advice on how to go about the diet.

Gluten is a protein found in rye, wheat and barley. It gives products processed from these raw materials its elasticity thereby allowing the dough to rise and maintain its shape. The final product derives from gluten its chewy texture. While it is found to exist in cereals and bread, grains such as wild rice, amaranth, quinoa, teff, oats, soybeans and sunflower seeds do not have it.

Gluten is not necessarily only found in wheat-based products. It’s also a stabilising agent or thickener for ice creams and ketchup. Other products that contain gluten are medicines and vitamins. It is used in cosmetics products such as lipstick, lip balms, and lip glosses.

There are people who adverse reactions to gluten. This sensitivity to gluten is due to an immune reaction that obstructs its digestion. This condition is known as Celiac Disease, and it affects about 1 in 133 people.

Gluten intolerance is a genetic disorder, and symptoms include diarrhoea, weight loss, and gastrointestinal implications. Celiacs suffer intestinal damage specifically in the villi, the small protrusions that line the small intestine that is responsible for the absorption of nutrients. With the villi in excellent condition, nutrition is not absorbed into the body. The most efficient resolution to this problem is a gluten-free diet.

A gluten-free diet is a life-long commitment to a diet the leaves out foods containing gluten. Additionally, it is the only diet that is medically accepted and prescribed for the treatment of celiac disease. It is also suggested for patients with dermatitis herpetiformis and wheat allergy. Wheat, rye, barley, triticale, durum, Graham, Kamut, semolina, spelt, and malt products are explicitly not allowed to be used. However, specific grains and flours that are allowed to be eaten are rice, corn, soy, beans, sorghum, quinoa, millet, arrowroot, amaranth, flax, and nut flours.

Uncontaminated oats may be consumed only in moderation. This translates to up to half a cup of dry oats each day. Gluten-free oats may be used, if available. Certain alcoholic drinks such as wines, hard liquor and distilled beverages are gluten-free; however, malt vinegar, lagers, and beers that are not distilled are made from gluten-containing grains. Thus, they should be avoided. Fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy products are allowed to be consumed.

Cross-contamination of products is an issue for some. Contamination occurs when gluten-free foods come into contact with foods containing even a small amount of gluten. This can be avoided by preparing gluten-free foods separately from gluten-containing ones. In addition, utensils such as knives, flour sifters, chopping boards and mixing bowls should be washed thoroughly before using them to prepare gluten-free food. Dips and oils used that come into contact with gluten-containing foods should be replaced as well.