The gluten-free diet has gained popularity recently and there is a lot of misinformation regarding this topic. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye products. Unless you have an intolerance or allergy to gluten, it is not necessary to avoid this food component.
Celiac disease is an immune reaction to gluten. Eating gluten can trigger an immune response in your small intestine leading to inflammation which damages its lining. Over time, this can lead to weight loss, bloating, diarrhea and malnutrition. Many people have few or no digestive symptoms, which makes diagnosing this disease difficult. There is no cure and the treatment is a strict gluten-free diet to manage symptoms and heal the intestine.
A gluten-free diet is essential. Once gluten is removed, the inflammation in the small intestine is reduced. It can take months for the complete healing of the small intestine, though symptoms and fatigue are often alleviated in just a few days once the gluten is taken out of the diet.
Going gluten-free means removing all wheat products from the diet. Other foods that contain gluten include barley, bulgur, durum, farina, graham flour, malt, rye, semolina, spelt, and triticale. It is important to pay close attention to the potential for cross contamination. For example, using the same toaster for regular bread and gluten free bread can lead to cross contamination. Even the slightest crumb can cause intestinal inflammation.
It is crucial to read food labels, especially on packaged foods. Cereals, pastas, baked goods, beer, candies, gravies, imitation meat/seafood, processed lunch meats, salad dressings/sauces, soups, and self-basting poultry generally contain gluten and should be avoided. Look for products labeled as “gluten-free” to be safe. Other foods that are allowed include: fresh meats, fish and poultry (not battered, breaded or marinated), fruits, most dairy products, potatoes, and vegetables. Grains and starches that are allowed include amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, corn, cornmeal, gluten-free flours (rice, soy, corn, potato, bean), pure corn tortillas, quinoa, rice and tapioca.