Gluten intolerance and sensitivity, as well as celiac disease, have become more and more of an issue today. And the industry is responding: It seems everywhere we look, gluten-free products are flooding the market. As a matter of fact, while on vacation I stumbled upon a gluten-free brownie and thought I died and went to heaven. It was delicious.
Many people don’t even realize they have issues with gluten, and yet, recent research reveals the problem might be larger than we think, impacting millions of individuals. Gluten intolerance is a lesser-understood concern than celiac disease, but can be just as detrimental, causing inflammation…a precursor to many chronic illnesses.
Gluten is a protein found inside many grains and seeds. Although many can digest it fine, those who can’t can experience a wide range of symptoms. Each individual responds to it differently, and so, symptoms can vary greatly. That said, here is a list of symptoms to look out for (source: Gluten Free Network):
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Nutritional deficiencies due to malabsorption e.g. low iron levels
- Gastro-intestinal problems (bloating, pain, gas, constipation, diarrhea)
- Fat in the stools (due to poor digestion)
- Aching joints
- Head aches
- Irritability and behavioural changes
- Infertility, irregular menstrual cycle and miscarriage
- Cramps, tingling and numbness
- Slow infant and child growth
- Decline in dental health
On a more serious level, undiagnosed food intolerances that go on for a long period of time have been found to contribute to diabetes, bowel cancer, anemia and osteoporosis.
Although most people associate gluten with wheat, it can actually be found in a whole host of grains and grain products, including:
- Wheat germ
And if that isn’t enough, many seemingly non-grain ingredients contain gluten as well:
- Imitation meats
- Processed meats
- Soy sauce
- Soup Stock cubes
- Textured vegetable protein
In looking at the list, it sure seems as though there are few options left! The good news, however, is that there are plenty of grains you can still enjoy, including:
- Corn – Optimal if you can find non-GMO varieties
- Wild rice
Also, if you haven’t tried sprouted grains, these may be somewhat more easily digested by individuals who have gluten sensitivities. That said, they still contain gluten, so if you have severe or strong intolerances or celiac diseaese, be sure to avoid these as well.
If you are interested in learning how to cook gluten-free, there are some fantastic Gluten-Free Cookbooks you can buy. Two of my favorites: The Healthy Gluten-Free Life and Gluten-Free Baking Classics.
Do you suffer from gluten intolerance or celiac disease? What grains do you turn to?
* Oats have been sorely debated due to many studies revealing cross-contamination of wheat in oat products, mainly due to the fact that they are often processed in the same facilities as wheat. That said, there are some varieties that are considered safe: Bob’s Red Mill, Cream Hill Estates, GF Harvest (fromerly Gluten Free Oats), Avena Foods (Only Oats), Legacy Valley (Montana Monster Munchies), and Gifts of Nature).
Sources: Whole Grain Council