Should You Say Goodbye To Gluten?

By Taryn Tacher

We all love our pastas, our breads, our cakes and our cookies — that is, unless we have celiac disease. This autoimmune disorder affects one in 100 people. That means 1 percent of the population is unable to digest gluten properly. Are you wondering if you should say goodbye to gluten?

To truly understand celiac disease, we must first know what gluten is — a protein present in wheat, barley and rye. When people with celiac disease try to digest it, their immune system lashes out on their small intestines, making it difficult for their bodies to process the gluten and absorb the nutrients in the food.

Celiac disease is hereditary. If your parent, child or sibling is affected, there’s a 10 percent chance that you will be. Though the disorder does not discriminate by age, it is more prevalent in women than men because women are more susceptible to autoimmune diseases (conditions that cause the immune system to accidentally attack the body’s own tissue).

Over the past few generations, celiac disease has become more and more common — quadrupling in the last 50 years. According to Joseph Murray, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and his colleagues, this increase is likely a result of wheat hybridization. Today, wheat is processed with oxidizers and revamped yeasting techniques, and it is unknown how these methods affect our immune systems.

Try These Gluten-Free Flours:

  • Amaranth
  • Arrowroot
  • Buckwheat
  • Corn
  • Rice
  • Millet
  • Tapioca
  • Oats
  • Potato
  • Quinoa

If you experience bloating, gas, diarrhea, fatigue and/or anemia, you may want to visit your doctor. A simple blood test can detect whether or not your body produces celiac disease antibodies. If you test positive, the next step before diagnosis is an endoscopy. During an endoscopy, the doctor will take a biopsy of the small intestine to see if there’s been damage.

It’s important to know that celiac disease lies at the end of a spectrum of gluten intolerance. You may be sensitive to gluten without having celiac disease. This means you have similar symptoms, but you don’t have the antibodies, and therefore your small intestine will not suffer if you eat gluten.

But, if you fall anywhere on the gluten intolerance scale, saying goodbye to gluten is the best option for your health and well-being. You should eat fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, legumes, meat, poultry, seafood and dairy products. Avoid food items that contain wheat, barley and rye, like breads, pastas, cakes, crackers, pastries, cereal and beer.

If you’re new to the gluten-free lifestyle, and you don’t want to give up all of your favorite starchy snacks, don’t worry — you can now find almost any food item in a gluten-free version.

Happy eating!

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