The Goods on Gluten

By Carolina Smart

Are you kidding me? I use my oven for storage. Carrie Bradshaw. When someone finds out that I’m a single woman, they automatically assume I live off of microwave dinners and greasy Chinese take out.

As a single gal, I do admit that many nights it would be easier to pick up the phone and order pizza but like most women, I’m becoming more and more vigilant about the foods I put into my body.

Gluten free diets have been getting a lot of press lately so I spoke with Registered Nutritionist Jonathan Archer to find out why they’re more than just a fad.

“I definitely think it would be in everyone’s best interest to consider gluten as a potential dietary offender,” says Archer. “Specifically, wheat tends to be the most aggressive source of gluten for most individuals.”

In fact, Gluten is found in many products, especially in prepared foods and it’s a trigger for Celiac disease, a lifelong, genetic, digestive disorder that affects children and adults. When people with the disease eat foods that contain gluten, it creates an immune-mediated toxic reaction that causes damage to the small intestine and does not allow food to be properly absorbed.

Twenty-eight-year-old, Massachusetts native, Jennifer Hadley started removing gluten from her diet back in her teens.

“I started doing my own research and learned about Celiac, the symptoms were identical to mine, so I tried going gluten free. I finally found a gastroenterologist that diagnosed me with Crohn's disease and discovered that many people with Crohn's or other IBD's have success on a GF diet, so I stuck to it.”

The easiest way to find out if you’re sensitive to gluten is to remove all sources from your diet for a week to ten days. Then add a piece of white or brown bread back into your diet. If you experience discomfort like stomach or intestinal pain, gas, bloating, muscle cramping, constipation or reduced energy, you likely have an intolerance. However some people have the disease and don’t display any obvious symptoms of gluten insensitivity which is why it is important to consult a family physician. In most cases, a simple blood test can determine the presence of certain antibodies.

Like anything new, it takes time to adjust to a gluten free diet so it’s natural to mourn old food habits for a little while. The simplest diet is one of natural unprocessed foods such as real meats, vegetables and fruits and rice, potatoes and sweet potatoes are a good choice of carbs. Hadley always carries snacks like Gluten free granola bars or rice bars, fruit, and a container of water as a snack.

“Many products are labeled as gluten free now,” says Archer. “It comes down to preference on products. I don’t recommend corn as a good alternative grain, even though it is gluten free. Corn is another problem grain for many people, and is a highly genetically modified grain, which is another health topic on its own.” Sidebar

Typical symptoms include (but are not restricted to):

* Gas and recurring bouts of abdominal pain/discomfort * Chronic diarrhea and constipation * Rapid weight loss or gain * Fatigue * Unexplained anemia * Behavioural changes * Tingling/numbness in legs * Bone or joint pain * Muscle cramps * Delayed growth in younger individuals * Pale sores in mouth * Itchy skin rashes

Websites

Gluten Free Information www.revitalizenutrition.com

http://www.celiac.com

http://www.glutenfreecookingschool.com

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