I wanted to do a little blurb about gluten-free information and living for all my GF buddies out there. It seems like more and more people are trying to reduce or eliminate gluten from their diet. So lets educate ourselves a bit, shall we?
Ok, so what it means to be gluten-free: completely free of ingredients derived from gluten-containing cereals: wheat (including kamut and spelt), barley, rye, oats and triticale, as well as the use of gluten as a food additive in the form of a flavoring, stabilizing or thickening agent. Now regarding those with serious celiac disease, that’s who should be avoiding even the remotest possibility of wheat products. Controversy exists about the consumption of oats. Some say those who should be GF should avoid oat products, however, others say oat products are ok. It’s been generally accepted that spelt is safe for gluten-free followers, however, according to recent studies and the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, those with celiac disease should also avoid spelt. It contains gluten, but not to the extent that’s found in wheat. When a celiac eats gluten their intestine thinks it’s under attack from a foreign body and initiates an immune response to the invader. The lining of the intestine becomes inflamed and the villi flatten. The flattening of the villi means that their surface area is reduced and the nutrients vital to health therefore aren’t absorbed, which over time leads to weight loss, wasting and malnutrition.
Aside from those with diagnosed Celiac Disease, who else benefits from a low-gluten/gluten-free diet? Some medical practitioners have seen improvements in persons with multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune disorders, as well as autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, and some behavioral problems. There are mixed beliefs in the benefit of gluten-free, dairy(casein)-free diets for those with autism – with data in support, and data suggesting no change or benefit. However, as a vegan, I would argue for the dairy-free side of things regardless…
Just like a vegan, what does a celiac eat?
Grains and starches also come up when discussing GF foods. The most frequently used grains and starches in GF foods are the following:
- Nut Flours
Another good flour that is gluten-free is chickpea (garbanzo) flour (see Pakoras!).
Odd places that gluten can be found is in ice creams and condiments such as ketchup – so read labels – as well as cosmetics such as lipstick, lip balms, and lip gloss.
As always, read the labels..and unless otherwise specified please make sure items are specifically marked gluten- or wheat-free if your life depends on it!
For more information check out the following sites:
Celiac.com: Provides info for gluten-free living, recipes, forums, online shops, etc. Also has various articles regarding research and other information about gluten- and wheat-intolerance.
Wheat-free.org: which has both wheat- and gluten-free information, recipes, etc.
Gluten Intolerance Group of North America: Non-profit group that provides support to persons with gluten intolerances, including celiac disease, dermatitis herpetiformis, and other gluten sensitivities, in order to live healthy lives.