A gluten-free diet is one that excludes foods that contain the protein gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you have celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder characterized by inflammation of the small intestine, your doctor may recommend that you switch to this type of diet. It may also be helpful to switch to this kind of diet if you have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, a condition in which you begin to experience the symptoms of the disease after eat anything containing gluten. This can occur with people who are not even diagnosed with the condition.
Signs and Symptoms of Celiac Disease
You should call a health care professional and schedule an appointment to get tested immediately if you experience nausea, vomiting, and continued gas and flatulence, constant diarrhea, or that which happens intermittently. In addition, any decrease in appetite or weight that is not caused by increase in exercise should be reported to your physician as well.
Consequences of Untreated Celiac Disease
If you don’t go to the doctor as soon as you suspect celiac disease, you are most likely to continue to consume gluten. As a result, the celiac disease will continue to destroy the lining of your intestine. In turn, your body is likely to start losing nutrients as that region of your digestive system stops absorbing the vitamins and minerals you need properly. Thus when you finally do go to the doctor, you may present with unexplained hair loss, fatigue, joint pain, dermatitis, and itchy skin from dermatitis, according to Prevention magazine. The sooner you report to your physician, the more promptly you can begin making the dietary changes you need.
How Doctors Test for Celiac Disease
If your doctor suspects that your chronic abdominal discomfort may be due to celiac disease, he may run a number of tests, including blood work and/or a stool sample. Yet, as the US News and World Report Health website suggests, these tests may be inconclusive because their accuracy relies on your having eaten a food containing gluten in the two weeks prior to the exam. The most accurate way that your practitioner can determine whether you have the disease is to perform a biopsy of your small intestine.
Post diagnosis: Foods to Avoid
After the doctor informs you that you’ve tested positive for the disease, he may also tell you that it’s time to switch to a gluten-free diet. This may leave you feeling bewildered and discouraged, because there are, indeed, many foods you loved to eat all your life that you may not be able to eat anymore unless, you can find the same food in gluten-free form. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should stop eating the following foods, unless they are labeled “gluten-free:”
–Malt, flavoring and malt vinegar, because they contain barley
–Triticate, because it’s a cross between barley and rye
–Wheat, or anything containing it
–Cakes, Pies, or candy
–Processed Seafood, such as canned tuna
–Processed Lunch Meats
Foods To Enjoy
In spite of all the restrictions, there are indeed foods you may continue to consume with pleasure. As the Mayo Clinic Website suggests, the transition to a non-gluten diet may be easier if you accentuate the positive rather than to dwell on the negatives of what you can no longer eat. Therefore, I would be remiss if this post were not to include foods that you may continue to consume and enjoy:
–Any fruits or vegetables
–Beans, seeds, and nuts as long as they are unprocessed and in natural form
–All fresh fish, meats and poultry
–most dairy products
In order to avoid foods that are processed, it’s best to buy your meat from the butcher and obtain your fruits and vegetables from the farmer’s market. For if you go to a supermarket, it’s more likely that the food you are purchasing will be processed or produced in a facility where cross contamination with wheat may have occurred.
Does The Diet Help Control/Prevent Diabetes?
The diet does not necessarily help you keep your blood sugars under control. The common misconception is that gluten and glucose are somehow related. So it’s best to adhere to what your doctor and your dietitian tell you you can or cannot eat. For although a food may not have gluten in it, its glycemic index can still be high, thus keeping it on the list of foods to avoid. Corn, for example, appears on the list of gluten free foods. However, it is known as a starchy vegetable, and, as such, contains carbohydrates. For someone with diabetes, carbs are indeed the numbers to watch, even on a gluten free diet.
Its Role in Weight Loss
Although this diet is a healthier lifestyle because it cuts out many forms of bread and wheat, you can still remain overweight or obese on it. Cutting back portion sizes and exercising regularly are still essential if you wish to lose the unwanted pounds. Also. as the US News and World Report Health website mentions, you should still avoid crackers, cookies and other packaged and/or processed foods if your aim is to lose weight. Instead, enjoy foods such as fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates, those that break down more slowly than foods containing simple carbs.
In spite of the health benefits I have described above–there are some drawbacks to life on this diet. For instance, when you decided to go gluten free, you eliminated wheat from your diet. This also meant you lost a great source of fiber, which is necessary to keep your bowels functioning as they should. Thus, as the US News and World Report website suggests, you should add a fiber supplement to your diet, in addition to consuming fruits and vegetables. In addition, the popcorn you’ll probably consume the next time you go out to the movies is an excellent source of fiber.
Also, work with your doctor and dietitian as you navigate your way through life on this diet. Furthermore, if you are not diagnosed with celiac disease, or celiac intolerance, do not make any significant changes in your diet until you consult a health professional. For if you do not make this transition correctly, your body could lose some key vitamins and minerals, which could result in unwanted long term health problems for you or your child, if you are a pregnant woman.