These days, more and more food manufacturers are providing gluten-free alternatives of their products, from bagels up to pasta. However, the prevalence has led to a lot of misconceptions. The term “gluten free” is widely linked with being healthy, but often in the sense of a dieting fad. Not everyone stops to think about what gluten free really means and why individuals should or should not eat certain foods.
In my personal journey, I went gluten free in 2012, after visiting a naturopath. She told me that the solution to my constipation would be found in going gluten free and dairy free. At the time it changed my life. It was the catalyst to learning more about health and how to get better. It really did help, but ultimately it didn’t completely solve my issues. I had an intolerance to it, but I was not diagnosed with celiac disease as per my doctors tests. So after all these years, do I still live gluten free? No. I do sometimes eat gluten. I can confirm that most of the time, I am fine. But before you decide to hop onto this gluten free train, lets discover together what it means.
What Does it Really Mean to be Gluten Free?
Gluten pertains to the protein found in rye, wheat, and barley and the cross between barley and wheat known as triticale. There are individuals who truly need to follow a gluten free diet for the sake of their health, such as those with celiac disease; for these people, gluten can result in damage to the lining of small intestines. But the vast majority of healthy people have no problem digesting gluten.
Being gluten free means eliminate gluten foods or products from your diet. Following any type of diet is challenging but adhering to a gluten-free diet can be even more difficult. But with patience, time, and some creativity, you can find ways to effectively substitute gluten free products and still enjoy the taste of your food. If you are following the advice of a doctor for any type of gluten-sensitive disorder, then you should also consult a nutrition consultant to help you plan your meals.
Many foods are naturally gluten-free, such as nuts, vegetables, fruits, meat, and some dairy products. To be gluten free means avoiding bread, desserts, pasta, cereal, beer, and many other foods on an extensive list. Mostly processed foods. Most people that are new to a whole food, plant based diet think that now they have nothing else to eat by going gluten free, but this is not the case. You can find plenty of gluten free whole grains such as buckwheat, amaranth, and quinoa as well as legumes, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
Why would you avoid it?
There are many reasons why some people avoid gluten. For those with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects the small intestine lining and can lead to severe malnutrition and digestive problems, consuming too much gluten can damage or irritate their bowels. People diagnosed with celiac disease must be very careful to limit or completely remove gluten from their diets.
Another group of people who need to avoid gluten or even wheat is those with wheat or gluten sensitivity. Symptoms of this type of condition include a consistently runny nose, sneezing, hives, diarrhea, abdominal bloating, headaches, and a lot more. If you’re already experiencing these types of symptoms, you should first consult your medical and health professionals rather than diagnosing yourself.
There are long standing beliefs that consuming gluten can also aggravate some existing autoimmune system diseases that you may already be experiencing. This includes multiple sclerosis, eczema, Crohn’s disease, and a lot more. It doesn’t necessarily mean that consuming gluten is the root cause of the disease: rather, gluten exacerbates these existing conditions, contributing to flare-ups. There is also evidence that consuming gluten can add to overall body inflammation that leads to other side effects, such as joint pain, depression, and fatigue.
Going Gluten Free Is Not Just About Giving Up Pasta and Bread
Gluten shows up in unexpected places, like in foods containing soy sauce, which often contains hidden traces of wheat. Gluten is also found in potato chips, hot dogs, candy bars, lunch meats, prepared eggs, and salad dressings. Since the lists of ingredients do not usually include the term “gluten,” it can be tricky to spot unless package specifically indicates that it is gluten free.
You want to avoid things that say, “malt flavor” or “malt extract.” Experts have also found gluten in rye, barley, wheat, and brewer’s yeast. Even if these foods are labeled with “gluten free,” they might contain gluten due to cross contamination. Avoiding processed foods is your best bet.
If you are considering removing gluten from your diet, it is best to speak with an expert, regardless of what your reasons are. Avoid self-diagnosis; it is always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before starting a gluten free diet.
If you’re just transitioning to a plant based, gluten free diet and have no real idea of what to prepare, don’t fret. I have a freebie of my most popular recipes (all gluten free), with desserts too! You can still eat dessert on a gluten free diet 🙂 Get the recipes here.
Now that I am vegan, I have healed my gut from all the years of meat, dairy and processed junk foods, I’m a lot less sensitive to gluten then I was before going on a whole food, plant based diet. The majority of my recipes are gluten free because I believe many people are sensitive to the kind of wheat and gluten that is grown today.
Stay Happy and Healthy, as always.