In some individuals, consuming gluten can cause illness. It is estimate d that many people have some form of gluten intolerance, referred to as non-celiac gluten sensitivity [NCGS], causing symptoms such as bloating or gas, diarrhea, fatigue, headache and itchy skin rash.
In celiac disease, gluten triggers an immune response attacks the lining of the small intestines.
This means the body is unable to effectively absorb nutrients into bloodstream, which can lead to anemia, delayed growth and weight loss.
Celiac disease can lead to other conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, infertility and neurological conditions, if left untreated, and the only effective treatment for celiac disease is to adopt a strict lifelong gluten-free diet.
For celiac, a gluten-free diet means avoiding all food that contain the protein, even in the smallest amount. Breads, beer, candies, cereals, cakes and pies, French fries, pastas, processed meats and soups are among some of the foods that should be avoided, unless they are specifically labeled gluten-free. Oats can come into contact with wheat during production stages, so unless labeled gluten-free, they should be avoided.
There are many foods that are naturally gluten free, including fruits and vegetables, fresh eggs, fresh meats, fish and poultry [not marinated, breaded or batter-coated], unprocessed beans, seeds and nuts, and the majority of dairy products.
Many grains and starches are allowed as part of gluten-free diet, including buckwheat, corn and cornmeal, flax, quinoa, rice, soy, arrowroot and millet. Celiac should be careful, however, that these grains have not been mixed or processed with grains, preservatives or additives that contain gluten.
Following a gluten-free diet may have been challenging a decade ago, given that many of our staple foods contain the protein. But, grocery stores are now stocked with an array of gluten-free alternatives, albeit at a higher price than gluten containing products. While the availability of gluten-free foods is great for people with gluten sensitivity, more and more of us without such intolerance are turning to gluten-free products. Why? Many of us believe gluten is bad for us, even when there is little scientific evidence suggesting it is.