It seems more and more gluten-free products are on the shelves these days. Gluten is a protein that is found in grains such as barley, rye and wheat, as well as any food that contains even small amounts of these. People who suffer from celiac disease are allergic to gluten and therefore must find gluten-free alternatives to add to their diet.
Celiac disease occurs when a person has an immune reaction when he consumes gluten. The small intestine becomes damaged and the person suffers diarrhea, weight loss and pain in the abdomen. The damage to the small intestines means that essential nutrients cannot be absorbed, leading to nutritional deficiencies causing conditions including osteoporosis, skin rashes, anemia, pain in the joins and certain cancers. If celiac disease goes untreated, the risk of death is quadrupled. Avoiding gluten in the diet is the treatment for celiac disease.
Foods to Avoid
People with celiac disease need to avoid specific foods. These include wheat, spelt, triticale, bulger, barley, farina, graham flour, farina, matzo meal, kamut, semolina and rye. These foods need to be avoided no matter how small the amount and are commonly added as ingredients to other foods, so it is a must to read the ingredient list.
With one out of every 133 Americans suffering from celiac disease, food production companies and restaurants are starting to cater to those seeking gluten-free foods by making and labeling gluten-free products. There are some foods that should be avoided if they are not labeled gluten free and are not made in a facility where gluten-containing products are made. These include everything from soups and salad dressings to beers and breads. Basically, any processed food, even luncheon meat, needs to be labeled gluten free in order to be safely consumed.
Naturally Gluten Free
Not all flour contains gluten. Flours made from foods that are naturally gluten free are safe for people with celiac disease to consume. These are readily available in supermarkets. Naturally gluten-free starches and grains are arrowroot, corn, cornmeal, quinoa, rice, amaranth, buckwheat, polenta and hominy grits. Flours will be marketed as gluten free, and these can be made from beans, nuts, soy, rice, corn and potato. It is still important to be sure to look for gluten-free labels to be sure that the food has not been contaminated during processing.