What a gluten free diet is:
A gluten free diet is used mainly for people with Celiac Disease (CD), which is an autoimmune disorder in which the body (specifically the intestinal tract) does not tolerate gluten- a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Because the body responds to gluten like an "allergy," its immune response causes the intestine to become inflamed and gluten is not absorbed. Our efficient body does whatever it can to eliminate gluten, which it perceives to be a foreign substance. This can lead to stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea, and malabsorption of nutrients. And here is where the danger lies for people with CD: long term malabsorption of gluten can lead to malabsorption of other nutrients and therefore the potential for many secondary conditions like anemia, osteoporosis, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies. The only treatment is the absolute avoidance of gluten and all foods containing it.
It is more than possible to have a healthy balanced diet following a GF eating plan. It does not exclude any one food group, and is adequate in all nutrients. It is, however, quite restricted in the grain group. The greatest struggle comes with the consumption of processed foods, because some gluten is present in many preservatives and artificial ingredients.
Some sneaky culprits (there are many but a few less obvious):
- "natural flavor"
- "artificial flavor"
- maltodextrin or dextrin
- hydrolyzed vegetable protein
- modified starch
- soy sauce
- salad dressings
- shredded cheese
- ice cream
A gluten free diet is not a "diet" in the usual sense of the word, meaning it is not intended for weight loss. In fact, many specialty gluten free products are higher calorie than the original product they are replacing. Although it has become a recent fad in the celebrity world, there is no research showing that it has much benefit for the average healthy person without CD. A positive for eating a gluten free diet is that it avoids many processed foods, and focuses on natural whole foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, protein and dairy.
OK that's enough mumbo jumbo..more to come!