May is Celiac Awareness Month, and May 16 is internationally recognized as Celiac Awareness Day. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that affects at least 1% of the population, and the only treatment is the gluten-free diet.
Gluten is a protein that is found in many grains, including wheat, barley, and rye. It's what gives bread dough its elasticity and helps it rise during baking. Gluten is problematic for some people because it can trigger an immune response in the body, leading to a range of health issues. Gluten is made up of two main proteins, glutenin, and gliadin. Gliadin is the component that is responsible for triggering an immune response in people with celiac disease.
When individuals with celiac disease consume gluten, their immune system reacts by producing antibodies that attack the gluten and the lining of the small intestine. This immune response can cause a range of symptoms, including abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, and fatigue.
This damage to the small intestine can lead to malabsorption of nutrients, which can cause deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, weight loss, and other health problems. Long-term effects of untreated celiac disease can include an increased risk of certain cancers and other autoimmune disorders.
Celiac disease is different from non-celiac gluten sensitivity, which is a condition in which individuals experience similar symptoms to celiac disease when consuming gluten, but without the autoimmune response or intestinal damage. The exact cause of non-celiac gluten sensitivity is not well understood, but it is thought to be related to an immune response to gluten or other components of wheat. If you suspect you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, it's important to speak with a healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment.
There is also some evidence that gluten may play a role in other health conditions, such as autism, schizophrenia, and depression. However, more research is needed to fully understand the link between gluten and these conditions.
If you're one of the millions of people who need to avoid gluten, you might be wondering how to live a gluten-free lifestyle. Fortunately, with a little bit of knowledge and planning, it's possible to enjoy a healthy and varied diet without gluten, whether you’re plant-based, Vegan, Paleo, following an AIP or somewhere in-between
6 Strategies For Living A Gluten-Free Lifestyle:
Focus on whole, unprocessed foods
The best way to ensure that your diet is gluten-free is to focus on whole, unprocessed foods. This means eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, well-sourced proteins, and healthy fats. These foods are naturally gluten-free and packed with nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy.
Choose gluten-free grains
While wheat, rye, and barley are off-limits, there are plenty of gluten-free grains to choose from. Some of the best options include quinoa, rice, millet, and buckwheat. These grains can be used to make a variety of dishes, from salads and soups to grain bowls and stir-fries.
When shopping for packaged foods, it's important to read labels carefully. Look for foods that are labeled as "gluten-free" or "certified gluten-free." Also, be on the lookout for hidden sources of gluten, such as malt, which is often made from barley.
Cook at home
One of the best ways to ensure that your food is gluten-free is to cook at home. This way, you can control exactly what goes into your meals and avoid cross-contamination from gluten-containing ingredients. Cooking at home can also be a fun and creative way to experiment with new gluten-free recipes.
Living a gluten-free lifestyle can require a bit of planning ahead. Make sure you have plenty of gluten-free staples on hand. It can also help to plan your meals in advance so that you always have something gluten-free to eat.
Be aware of cross-contamination
Even if a food is naturally gluten-free, it can still become contaminated with gluten during preparation. To avoid cross-contamination, be sure to use separate cooking utensils, cutting boards, and dishes when preparing gluten-free meals. Also, be aware of hidden sources of gluten, such as sauces and seasonings that may contain wheat.
Living a healthy, gluten-free lifestyle including lots of whole, real foods can be challenging at first, but with a little bit of knowledge and planning, it's possible to enjoy a varied and delicious diet without gluten. By focusing on unprocessed foods and avoiding the majority of processed gluten-free products, you can live a fulfilling gluten-free lifestyle.
Gluten-free products can be a helpful tool for individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, but they should not be relied on as the sole source of nutrition Gluten-free products can be problematic for several reasons:
- Lack of Nutrients: Many gluten-free products are made with refined grains, such as rice flour, cornstarch, and potato starch. These ingredients are often lower in nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals compared to whole grains. Therefore, a diet that relies heavily on gluten-free products may lack important nutrients that are essential for overall health.
- Higher in Sugar and Vegetable Oils: Many gluten-free products are higher in sugar and processed fats compared to their gluten-containing counterparts. This is because manufacturers often add extra sugar, fat, and additives to improve the texture and taste of gluten-free products, which can contribute to unhealthy dietary patterns.
- Expensive: Gluten-free products are often more expensive than their gluten-containing counterparts. This can make it difficult for individuals on a tight budget to maintain a gluten-free diet, which can be especially challenging for families with multiple members who require a gluten-free diet.
- Cross-Contamination: Cross-contamination is a risk when preparing gluten-free products. If gluten-free products are processed in the same facilities as gluten-containing products, there is a risk of contamination. This can be a concern for individuals with celiac disease, as even small amounts of gluten can trigger a reaction.
- Misleading Health Claims: Some gluten-free products may have misleading health claims, such as "low-fat" or "organic." These claims can lead consumers to believe that gluten-free products are inherently healthy, which may not always be the case.
At Pete's Real Food, our entire kitchen is gluten free and you can be rest assured that each meal is carefully prepared using the highest quality ingredients and freshest produce with no risk of cross-contamination, ever! We believe that living a gluten-free lifestyle doesn't mean sacrificing flavor and taste. Pete's Real Food offers a range of meals that are both flavorful and delicious, making it easier to stick to your gluten-free diet without feeling like you are missing out. Read more about our philosophy and our process here
Our weekly offerings include Paleo, Vegan and AIP lunches and dinners, along with breakfasts and kids’ meals and snacks that they’ll actually eat.
Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disorder that requires a strict gluten-free diet to manage symptoms and prevent long-term complications. Living with celiac disease can feel particularly daunting, but with the right tools and understanding, it's possible to lead a healthy and fulfilling life and enjoy a varied and delicious diet without gluten