Gluten is a type of protein composite found in barley, wheat and rye products. Gluten is generally harmless and is a beneficial part of the grain food group. However, if you have any type of gluten intolerance or allergy, you may experience a wide range of discomfort when you eat gluten. You may want to refrain from eating gluten if you are gluten-intolerant, especially when pregnant.
Gluten is in many foods, such as cereals and breads. Other examples include semolina, pasta, rice malt, sprouted barley, bulgur wheat, teriyaki sauce, gravies, imitation meats, lunch meats, soups, wheat nut and wheatgrass. Because many things that contain gluten are ingredients in other products, it can be challenging to find food that is entirely gluten-free. Gluten is also found in products such as vitamins, medications, artificial flavorings, seasonings, lip balm and some toothpastes. Many stores are beginning to have designated areas where they sell strictly gluten-free products. When you are pregnant it is important to eat healthy foods from the grain, dairy, vegetable, fruit and protein group to make sure you get enough nutrients such as calcium and folic acid for a healthy pregnancy. If you are gluten intolerant, you need to avoid foods containing gluten and may need to take a gluten-free nutritional supplement for iron, folate, vitamin B, selenium and magnesium. Talk to your doctor about the need for supplementation.
Signs and Symptoms
It can be difficult to diagnose gluten intolerance because it can mask the symptoms of other health conditions. Common symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, bone and joint pain, tingling in legs, headaches, depression, bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea and vomiting. If you have experienced these symptoms prior to being pregnant, they might be related to gluten intolerance or celiac disease. Discuss these symptoms with your doctor so he can recommend the best diet or plan of action for your pregnancy. Gluten intolerance symptoms combined with morning sickness can cause weight loss and may complicate the first trimester of pregnancy.
A minor gluten intolerance may cause gastrointestinal discomfort when you consume certain foods or use certain products. Over time, gluten can break down the lining of your small intestine, causing it to become severely inflamed and damaged. As a result, your intestine is unable to absorb the nutrients you eat. With celiac disease, you may experience severe intolerance to gluten-containing foods; the result could be malnutrition, which is dangerous during pregnancy and can negatively affect the growth and development of the fetus. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness explains that following a gluten diet during pregnancy, especially if you are intolerant, may lead to preterm labor, low-birth weight newborn, anemia and possible stillbirth.
If you have been diagnosed with a gluten intolerance or if you choose not to include gluten products in your diet while you are pregnant, you can substitute from other food groups. It is important to get fiber, calcium and iron from as many natural foods as possible such as low-fat yogurt, cheese, fresh meat, organic fruit and vegetables, and rice. You can also eat meals that include gluten-free ingredients such as crackers, pasta and bread. Make sure to stay within the calorie range that your obstetrician recommends to maintain a healthy weight throughout pregnancy.