Did you know that approximately 15 million Americans suffer from food allergies? One-fifth of that population is plagued with a serious autoimmune disorder, Celiac Disease. Those with Celiac Disease must avoid gluten entirely because it causes damage to the intestines. However, there are many living with Gluten Intolerance and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, who also experience uncomfortable symptoms. Those who are sensitive to gluten also benefit from eliminating it from their diet, but it can be tricky to navigate which foods you can and cannot eat. Read on to get an overview of this popular health topic and some tips for going gluten-free.
According to the Paleo philosophy, our bodies were not meant to consume wheat or grains. Our ancestors weren’t exposed to wheat or grains, so their bodies were not accustomed to digesting them. And, while that was 50,000 years ago, our digestive systems have not changed much. Agriculture and the growing of wheat and grains was introduced about 10,000 years ago. Our modern food supply really pushed grains into the diet over the last 50 years, correlating to the upswing in things like gluten intolerance.
So what is gluten intolerance? Unlike Celiac Disease, which is an autoimmune condition, gluten intolerance is an immune response resulting in gastrointestinal discomfort and inflammation. Symptoms include digestive issues, hives and rash, nasal congestion and difficulty breathing, to name a few. These symptoms usually occur within minutes of consuming gluten. Non-life threatening symptoms, like bloating and gas, may be dismissed as the occasional digestive discomfort, which is why many people with gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity go undiagnosed. If you experience any of these symptoms you may want to experiment with eliminating gluten from your diet to see how you feel. And of course, we advise that you consult with your doctor about these symptoms and if you’re considering starting a new diet.
Gluten, while found in wheat, is actually a protein. Gluten is found in wheat products, such as bread and pasta, and some grains, such as barley and rye. What many don’t realize, however, is that gluten can be found in many unlikely foods, including salad dressings, seasonings, and even vitamins and other non-food products. It’s a sneaky ingredient that can be very dangerous for those with gluten intolerance and Celiac Disease.
Just because a product says Gluten-Free, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Many gluten free products are made with refined versions of gluten-free grains. So before you throw the gluten free crackers in your shopping cart, take a look at the rest of the ingredients, and make sure the product has the official Gluten-Free certification. Also remember that going gluten free isn’t an excuse to not eat your fruits and veggies. Gluten-free or not, it’s vital to get all the necessary nutrients.
Thankfully, because gluten has been such a popular topic lately, there are many more gluten-free products available than ever before. There are also great tasting, gluten free pre-packaged snacks, such as our Nutrition Bars, that make gluten-free a piece of cake.
Here are just some of our favorite gluten-free swaps:
- Coconut aminos for soy sauce
- Lettuce for burger buns, taco shells or tortillas
- Quinoa or zucchini noodles for pasta
- Homemade salad dressing for store bought dressing