Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Gluten-Free Diet

By now you have heard of the gluten-free diet.  Perhaps you have wondered if you should try it.  This column will look more closely at this topic.

Who should follow a gluten-free diet?
3 million Americans are estimated to have celiac disease, requiring a gluten-free diet to live symptom-free. But only 17% know they have it, leaving about 2 1/2 million people with symptoms and not knowing there is relief at hand.  There are also an estimated 18 million people with Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS). People with wheat allergy would also benefit from a gluten-free diet.

What are the symptoms of gluten intolerance?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.  If a person has an autoimmune or allergic reaction to gluten, it can damage the intestines and other parts of the body.  Symptoms indicating a possible need for a gluten-free diet include recurring abdominal pain & bloating, chronic diarrhea or constipation, chronic fatigue, nausea/vomiting, headaches and joint pain, as well as
other possible symptoms.  A series of blood or skin tests would be needed in order to diagnosis celiac disease, gluten intolerance or wheat allergy.

What foods must be avoided on a gluten-free diet?
Besides wheat, barley and rye, oats are often cross-contaminated with gluten by processing, so oats must be certified gluten-free. Basically, all wheat flour products are to be avoided; all bread, cereals, pasta, noodles, seasoned chips, crackers, baked goods, most bakery items and breaded meats, unless they are labeled gluten-free.  Ready-to-eat and convenience foods will usually have gluten-containing ingredients.  Those who follow a gluten-free diet must do their research and read labels carefully in order to avoid ingredients which contain gluten. The extensive list of processed foods to be avoided makes this diet hard to follow if you do not do your homework.  

What foods can be eaten on a gluten-free diet?
The good news is that most other unprocessed, healthy foods are gluten-free naturally. Common gluten-free grains include: rice, soy, corn & quinoa.  Fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables are gluten-free (no sauces or breading). Fresh meats, poultry and fish are gluten-free.  Read the label on processed or packaged meats, like bacon or sausage for gluten-containing ingredients.  Unflavored milk, butter, eggs and cheese are gluten-free.  Unflavored coffee and tea are gluten-free.

There is a lot of information online about gluten-free eating, like https://celiac.org/live-gluten-free/. Gluten-free eating is not for everyone, but might be worth the try if you have symptoms.  Topeka Pharmacy provides professional and friendly health care services- we want to help you!

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