If you have celiac disease, your immune system reacts to gluten and damages the lining of your gut. This causes symptoms such as bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, tiredness and headaches. The only treatment for coeliac disease is the gluten-free diet. This is avoiding all gluten (some people also need to avoid oats), so that your gut can heal and your symptoms improve.
Gluten is a specific type of protein, but not in meat or eggs. Instead gluten is found primarily in wheat, rye, and barley. Going gluten-free means avoiding these grains. A gluten-free diet is, however, popular among people without gluten-related medical conditions. The claimed benefits of the diet are improvement in health, weight loss and increased energy.
Cutting out gluten from your diet may seem like a difficult and limiting task. Fortunately, there are many healthy and delicious foods that are naturally gluten-free. However, the most cost-effective and healthy way to follow the gluten-free diet is to seek out naturally gluten-free food. These includes food groups such as:
- Meat and poultry
- Fish and seafood
- Beans, legumes, and nuts
Pure wheat grass and barley grass are gluten-free, but there is gluten in the seeds. If they are not harvested or processed correctly, there is risk of gluten contamination.
What about grains?
There are many naturally gluten-free grains that you can enjoy in a variety of creative ways. Many of these grains are in your local grocery store. But some of the lesser-known grains may only be in specialty or health food stores. It is not advisable to purchase grains from bulk bins because of the possibility for cross-contact with gluten.
Natural Gluten Free Foods
Grains, starches or flours that you can include in a gluten-free diet include:
- Corn and cornmeal
- Gluten-free flours (rice, soy, corn, potato, bean)
- Hominy (corn)
- Tapioca (cassava root)
There has been some research that some naturally gluten-free grains may contain gluten. This can occur from cross-contact with gluten-containing grains through harvesting and processing. Therefore, purchase only versions that are tested for the presence of gluten and contain less.
Gluten-Free Diet Substitutes
Many items that usually contain gluten have gluten-free alternatives. They are widely available in most grocery stores, and make living gluten-free much easier. Keep in mind, however, that minimally processed fresh foods are a crucial part of a healthy gluten-free diet. It is very important to base your diet around fruits, vegetables, meats, and other healthy food groups listed above.
Many commercially available products are labeled “gluten-free,”. But there will be some that are not; this is why proper label reading is important. It is also important to remember that “wheat-free” does not necessarily mean “gluten-free.” Be wary, as many products may appear to be gluten-free, but are not.
As a rule, traditional wheat products such as pastas, breads, crackers, and other baked goods are not gluten-free. However, there are many gluten-free options available that use alternative flours and grains. Additionally, there are gluten-free flours and flour blends available in the grocery aisle, allowing you to bake your own bread.
Medications and supplements
Prescription and over-the-counter medications may use wheat gluten as a binding agent. Talk to your doctor or pharmacists about the drugs you’re taking. Dietary supplements that contain wheat gluten must have “wheat” stated on the label.
Many cereals contain gluten or wheat-based ingredients, but there are some that do not. Be on the lookout for the “gluten-free” label. But also realize that not all gluten-free cereals will advertise as such. Therefore, it is important to check the list of ingredients. Something to watch out for: cornflakes and puffed rice cereal may contain malt flavoring or extract, which contains gluten.
The harvesting and processing of oats, is with the same equipment for wheat. Therefore, contamination easily occurs. Research indicates that pure, uncontaminated oats consumed in moderation (up to ½ cup dry rolled oats daily) are tolerated by most people with celiac disease. Look for oats specifically labeled gluten-free in all products containing oats.
Soups and Sauces
Soups and sauces are one of the biggest sources of hidden gluten. Because, many companies use wheat as a thickener. It is always a good idea to read the label of any pre-prepared or canned soups and sauces, paying special attention to those that are cream-based.
Fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten-free. However, it is important to read labels on any processed fruits and veggies. It also apply to dried fruit and pre-prepared smoothies. Additionally, packaged frozen potatoes are not always gluten-free, and labels should be read carefully when considering these products.
Most beverages are gluten-free, including juices, sodas, and sports drinks.
Alcoholic beverages, including hard liquor/distilled liquors/hard ciders are also gluten-free. Beers, ales, lagers, malt beverages and malt vinegars that are made from gluten-containing grains are not distilled and therefore are not gluten-free. There are several brands of gluten-free beers available globally.