For the millions who have been diagnosed with celiac disease—an autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to attack the intestines, eating gluten can mean a life of painful stomach cramps and severe digestive problems. While there are some people who suffer from celiac disease and who must be on a gluten free diet, I am learning about other reasons I would want to eliminate gluten in my diet. Recent studies indicate that gluten-free diets may be beneficial for individuals experiencing osteoporosis, autism, multiple sclerosis, depression, and other neurological and auto-immune disorders.
Since wheat has a high level of gluten, it has been recommended to avoid all foods that contain wheat. The two other grain cereals with high levels of gluten are rye and barley. Since oats are cross contaminated by being processed by many of the same machines that are used to process wheat, barley and rye, it has also been recommended that a person to not consume oats.
Gluten is a protein group that is mainly found in wheat and also in barley and rye, and to a lesser degree in oats, and it is responsible for keeping dough elastic and strong in products that have been baked. In addition, wheat flour is found in a number of processed foods other than in simple baked foods, and so you must look closely at what the different processed food and baked food labels say with regard to the presence of gluten to be sure that you are not eating anything with gluten in it.
Since grain products are used in all kinds of foods, you will need to be careful in your food purchases and check the labels. Many prepared foods contain starches, emulsifier, flours, flavoring, vegetable proteins, stabilizer, soy sauce or vegetable gum, which could contain gluten or wheat.
I’m discovering I can still enjoy eating on a gluten and wheat free diet despite the restrictions on wheat, barley and oats. It is a bit less convenient to get my meals that are gluten free, it does not mean I have to give up on flavor or nutrition. I’m learning to find healthy additions that I need for a gluten and wheat free diet so that I can fulfill my daily nutrition requirements without the addition of gluten or wheat.
I’m finding, for example, there are many gluten free foods in my local supermarket and have been pleasantly surprised to find many items including snack bars, cookies that have been softly baked, bagels and granola as well as semi-sweet chocolate chips to choose from. And, there are also some trail mixes that are especially gluten free.