Remember back when you were a kid, you would run into the kitchen after school and make yourself a quick PB & Jam or maybe a ham and cheese sandwich? For years, we grabbed those two delicious pieces of white bread and slapped them together to make a delicious afternoon snack. Years later, we were told to exchange those squishy pieces of white, non-nutrient bread for a more dense and hearty wheat bread. So then, for years after that, we would make our PB&J’s, ham and cheese and even grilled cheese sandwiches on whole wheat. Not only did we do what we were told, but also we believed when they said, “it’s healthier for you”.
Well, times have changed. For many people, wheat has become the new enemy. Gilded for years as the healthier alternative for breads, pastas and grains; wheat strikes fear in the hearts of over 2 million people with Celiac Disease and wheat allergies. What was once thought to be the solution to being able to eat carbs, wheat (gluten), has caused an entire population of people to eliminate it all together from their diet.
So, what’s the big deal about gluten? Is it the same as wheat? Why can’t some people eat it? Well, here is the issue. Gluten is a protein found in foods that are processed from wheat, rye, barley and other related grains. Gluten is often used to give elasticity and texture to dough. Not only restricted to foods, gluten is also found in lotions, skincare products, body washes, and even in shampoos. The issue with gluten is that today, it is found in so many products! Used in bread products, imitation meats, soy sauces and even ketchup, gluten can be difficult to detect for people with allergies or Celiac Disease.
For some, ingesting gluten leads to a slight upset stomach or mild constipation. For those people with Celiac’s, gluten intake can lead to extreme intestinal discomfort, cramping, diarrhea and even malnutrition. When someone with Celiac Disease eats gluten, his or her small intestine is not able to process the gluten. This leads to abdominal discomfort and in some cases severe malnutrition, due to the lack of nutrient absorption. With no cure for Celiac Disease, the only medicine is a change in diet and food philosophy. It can take the body months, even years to acclimate to a new lifestyle, so patience and determination is key.
So, now that you’ve been told what you can’t eat, here is some good news! With gluten intolerance being so widespread these days, food companies and even restaurants give hope to individuals on a gluten-free diet. While fruits and vegetable are and will always be the best way to go, individuals can enjoy gluten-free breads, pastas, baked goods and even beer and wine! Beans, seeds, meats (not marinated or battered), soy, buckwheat, cornmeal and quinoa are some of the goodies that can be sprinkled into a gluten-free diet.
If you or someone you know is gluten-free, focus on learning new and exciting recipes and learning to introduce a variety of gluten-free foods into your new and healthier lifestyle!