What is a Gluten-Free Diet: What it Means and Why it Matters

Gluten-free refers to a diet that excludes the protein called gluten, which is found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye, and oats. A gluten-free diet is essential for people with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or wheat allergy.

This diet may also be followed by individuals who are not diagnosed with these conditions but choose to go gluten-free for various reasons.

Understanding what gluten-free means is crucial, as it impacts the types of foods and drinks that individuals can consume to avoid eating gluten.

It also affects food labeling and food products in stores.

People with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity must follow a gluten-free diet to avoid health issues.

Therefore, it is essential to know which foods contain gluten and which do not to stay healthy.

What is a Gluten-Free Diet
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Carlos Opinion - Why a Gluten Free Diet is important for Hashimoto and Autoimmune disorder

As stated in this article, the are sensitivites in the body that when someone eats food containing gluten, the body will have a reaction bringing up a symptom. 

For me, it has been a long healing journey, that when I did my food sensitivity test, and found out that in effective, gluten was a reactive food for me, I actually hesitated to remove it. 

With such mystery symptoms where doctors don’t have the answer, it is a complicated moment, where questions arise like “If I am doing what the doctor says, why I am not feeling right?”.

But as I accepted this path, and removed all gluten foods from my diet, it has eventually become a piece of what has helped me in my recovery process.

It is still rare that doctors, specially endocrinologists, will try to find out what are your food triggers and what are the root causes of your symptoms, might that be for your Hashimoto, Celiac Disease, Arthritis or Autoimmune diseases.

As I started to take more responsibility on my health, and not just leaving it to “it was what the doctor said”, and research for the benefit of myself, it was when I actually started to become more conscious of what where my potential triggers. 

As well, a food sensitivity test helped me a lot to find out what foods to avoid for Hashimoto.

Does removing gluten will have a negative impact on my emotional state? Of couse not, since it is more important to leave behind damaging foods, rather than just having a “cheat day” with pizza, burgers, pasta, cakes, bread etc, and where you are actually cheating yourself and your own health.

Plus as mentioned in “This is your brain on food by Uma Naidoo“, gluten can have an inflammatory reaction in the brain, generating also symptoms for depression.

Developing your own personalized diet, that nurtures you and eliminate your triggering foods, can gradually help you to recover your own health and help you to regain that feeling of “now I am feeling right and I know why”. 

Diet is one piece of the puzzle on the recovery in your healing journey.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye, and oats. It provides elasticity to dough, which helps it rise and gives it a chewy texture. There are two types of gluten proteins, namely glutenin and gliadin, which are responsible for the unique properties of gluten.

Foods that contain gluten include bread, pasta, cereal, flour, and other baked goods made with wheat flour. Barley, rye, and oats also contain gluten, although oats can be naturally gluten-free. Some flavorings, sauces, and dressings may contain gluten, and processed foods must be checked for gluten content. Alcoholic beverages such as beer, malt beverages, and whiskey may also contain gluten.

People with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity must avoid gluten-containing foods to prevent damage to their small intestine, which can lead to malabsorption of nutrients from food.

Even small amounts of gluten can trigger immune system activity and cause health issues for individuals with these conditions.

Therefore, it is crucial to check the labels of processed foods to determine whether they contain gluten.

It is also important to note that some whole grains, such as quinoa, rice, corn, and buckwheat, are naturally gluten-free and can be incorporated into a gluten-free diet.

There are also gluten-free alternatives available, such as gluten-free flours, bread, and pasta, which can be used to replace gluten-containing foods in recipes.

Some food products are specifically labeled gluten-free, and these are safe for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity to consume.

Gluten-related disorders

Gluten free text and spoons of various gluten free flour. Flat lay, top.

Celiac disease 

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects approximately 1% of the population. 

People with celiac disease are unable to tolerate gluten and must follow a strict gluten-free diet to avoid damaging their small intestine.

Consuming gluten can trigger an immune response, which can lead to malabsorption of nutrients and other complications. 

It is essential for people with celiac disease to read labels carefully and avoid foods that contain even small amounts of gluten.

Gluten sensitivity

Gluten sensitivity is a condition in which people experience symptoms similar to celiac disease, but they do not test positive for the disease or have the same type of intestinal damage.

Some people with gluten sensitivity may still need to follow a gluten-free diet to alleviate symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, and fatigue.

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity can be the causes of different symptoms and inflammations around the body

Wheat allergy

Wheat allergy is an allergic reaction to proteins found in wheat. It is a different condition than celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, although some symptoms may overlap. People with a wheat allergy must avoid wheat products, but may be able to consume gluten from other sources.

Benefits of a gluten-free diet

Gluten-free food substitutes and alternatives

Gluten-free grains and flours

Gluten-free grains and flours are great alternatives to traditional grains that contain gluten. Popular gluten-free grains include rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, and sorghum. 

These grains can be used in place of wheat flour to make gluten-free bread, pasta, and baked goods. Gluten-free flours like almond flour, coconut flour, and chickpea flour can also be used in baking.

Gluten-free products

There are now many gluten-free products available in grocery stores and online, including bread, pasta, crackers, and snacks. It is important to read the labels carefully to ensure that the product is certified gluten-free and does not contain any hidden sources of gluten. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established a rule that products labeled “gluten-free” must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten.

Whole food options

Eating whole, unprocessed foods is a great way to ensure a gluten-free diet. Fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and fish are all naturally gluten-free.

Incorporating whole foods into your diet not only ensures a gluten-free diet but also provides a variety of important nutrients for overall health.

Tips for a successful go gluten-free lifestyle

Young woman reading nutrition label while buying pasta in grocery store.

Reading labels and identifying hidden sources of gluten

Reading labels and identifying hidden sources of gluten is essential for a successful gluten-free lifestyle. Gluten can be found in many foods, including sauces, dressings, and even some medications and supplements. It is important to read the list of ingredients carefully and look for any potential sources of gluten.

Dining out and traveling while gluten-free

Dining out and traveling can be challenging while following a gluten-free diet, but it is possible with some planning. Researching restaurants ahead of time and speaking with the chef or server about gluten-free options can help ensure a safe and enjoyable dining experience. When traveling, it is important to bring gluten-free snacks and research local options ahead of time.

Embracing a whole foods approach to eating

Embracing a whole foods approach to eating can make following a gluten-free diet easier and more enjoyable. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean meats are naturally gluten-free and can be prepared in a variety of delicious ways. Experimenting with gluten-free grains and flours can also open up a whole new world of delicious foods. A gluten-free diet can be both healthy and delicious when approached with a whole foods mindset.

What foods are naturally gluten-free?

There are many foods that are naturally gluten-free, including:

However, it’s important to note that some processed foods and food products may contain gluten or be cross-contaminated with gluten during manufacturing.

Therefore, it’s important to always check the label and ingredient list before consuming any packaged food products. 

Additionally, it’s recommended to look for products with the certified gluten-free label, which means that the product has been tested and verified to contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. 

Some examples of gluten-free packaged foods include:

Overall, with a little bit of planning and label reading, it’s possible to enjoy a wide variety of delicious and healthy gluten-free foods.

What are foods that contain gluten?

Foods that are high in gluten include:

It’s important to note that many foods may contain trace amounts of gluten due to cross-contamination during processing or preparation. That’s why it’s crucial to carefully read ingredient labels and look for certifications such as “Certified Gluten-Free” to ensure a food is safe for those who must avoid gluten.

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