The gluten free diet has been bandied about on the internet and in the news quite a bit lately, leading some folks to wonder just what it is. Some have wondered if it’s not the latest weight loss ‘miracle’. The truth is that it has nothing to do with weight loss, but everything to do with health. Here are 7 facts about gluten and celiac that will help you understand what they are.
1. Gluten is a type of complex protein found in many grains, like wheat, rye, and barley. There is some discussion about whether or not there is gluten in oats, as some people who are gluten intolerant eat them with no problem while others suffer ill effects.
2. Gluten intolerance means that a person’s body does not process gluten well. Celiac disease is a specific type of gluten intolerance, for which you can be tested. Some studies claim that as many as 1 in 7 people are gluten intolerant, with about 1 in 200 suffering from Celiac disease.
3. Gluten intolerance causes chronic problems with the digestive system. Because of this, it can prevent the absorption of the nutrients from food as it moves through the intestine. This can be especially problematic with children, causing malnutrition and developmental delays to children even if they are eating a healthy diet.
4. The symptoms of gluten intolerance are varied, and can even be different from one person to the next. This makes it especially difficult to diagnose. Gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, gas and bloating are typical, but other symptoms are not as well known. Headache, weight gain or loss, dermatitis and eczema are all possible symptoms of gluten intolerance.
5. Genetics seem to play a large role in gluten intolerance. It’s more frequent among the Caucasian population, and women are 2-3 times more likely to be gluten intolerant than men.
6. There is no cure for gluten intolerance. The best treatment is to eliminate all gluten containing products from the diet. This includes wheat, barley, rye and possibly oats – plus any products made from these grains. It can be a daunting task because wheat products and gluten are often found in unexpected foods, with names like “hydrolyzed vegetable protein”. It is important to know the disguises for gluten so you can be informed when you are reading nutrition labels on foods.
7. If you think you may suffer from gluten intolerance, speak with your doctor or nutritionist. Medical testing can confirm if you have Celiac disease. If not, an elimination diet can help you determine if gluten is at the cause of your symptoms.