Going Gluten-Free for 2017? Here’s the Gluten Free Connecticut lowdown:
If you’re considering eliminating gluten for 2017, you’re not alone. A third of the American population is currently limiting their intake of gluten for various reasons, ranging from celiac disease and gluten sensitivity to just trying to reduce bloating and inflammation. But before you dive headfirst into a bag of rice flour, Gluten Free Connecticut wants you to understand both the benefits and potential pitfalls of eating gluten free, so that your transition can be both delicious AND healthy!
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat and related grains, including barley and rye. Western civilization relies on gluten as an ingredient for obtaining elasticity in dough, helping it to rise, keep its shape, and give the final product its chewy texture.
In recent years, some studies suggest that our bodies may not tolerate and digest gluten as well as we thought. Some believe that this applies to everyone, and not just those suffering from degrees of sensitivity. As of yet, there is no definitive answer. Click here for a list of common foods that contain gluten, and a list that of foods that don’t.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac Disease is a disorder in which the immune system attacks the lining of the small intestine, in response to eating gluten. This can result in abdominal cramping, vomiting, failure to thrive, osteoporosis, fertility issues, anemia and diarrhea. It is not known what exactly causes celiac, but there is a genetic component. A gluten-free diet is not optional for people with celiac disease, because the body reacts to gluten as if it were toxic. Getting diagnosed and removing gluten from the diet is critical to avoid long-term damage to the intestines. Gluten sensitivity varies among celiac sufferers. Some can tolerate tiny bits of gluten, while others cannot. This is why gluten cross-contamination can be such an important issue.
What is Gluten Sensitivity?
People with gluten sensitivity experience a wide range of negative reactions from eating gluten, minus the damage to the small intestine. Symptoms range from bloating and skin problems to joint inflammation and brain fog. Removing gluten from the diet alleviates these problems.
I think I may be celiac or gluten sensitive – what now?
If you suspect that you may have celiac disease, see your doctor ASAP. Blood tests and upper endoscopies are used to diagnose the disease, and there are important medical protocols. If you suspect that you may be gluten sensitive, consult with your doctor first before removing gluten from your diet, to ensure that there are no other existing health concerns.
I’m Not Gluten Sensitive – Should I Be Gluten Free Anyway?
Eating gluten free has become a popular health trend over the past few years. For many people, eliminating gluten simply feels better. Whether your gut is struggling to digest gluten or not, removing this particular protein reduces bloating and inflammation. In fact, you may not even realize that you’ve been reacting to gluten until you stop eating it. You may notice that your joints feel better and you’re more comfortable after meals. Your skin might clear, and your focus could potentially improve. Some see a difference within a few days, for others it could take weeks. Does this mean that you have gluten sensitivity? Not necessarily, but if you feel better by avoiding gluten, then why wouldn’t you? Eating gluten free may be a trend at the moment, but feeling good never goes out of style!
I’ve heard that going gluten free can actually be detrimental – why?
Whole wheat contains important vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which are lost when gluten is eliminated from the diet. To maintain a healthy gluten-free lifestyle, you must ensure that you are consuming adequate amounts of vegetables, fruits, and proteins. See below for more details.
Gluten-Free Do’s and Don’ts
- Do go through your cupboard and determine which items contain gluten and which don’t. Check this link for help.
- Don’t replace all of your favorite gluten-containing favorites with rice-based items. Simply switching over to rice-based cookies, crackers, and breads does nothing to improve your health. Many of these foods are loaded with sugar, fats, and other additives, and all of them are high in carbohydrates. Focus on lean proteins and complex carbs (veggies and fruits), saving sugary treats for cheat days and special occasions.
- Don’t forget to incorporate lots of fiber into your new diet, as you will not be eating wheat and other gluten-containing grains, which provide important nutrients.
- Do consult with your doctor before beginning any new diet or exercise plan.
- Do try to find the best resources for living gluten free in your area. Many restaurants now happily cater to gluten-free customers, and glutenfreeconnecticut.com has the most comprehensive list.
A Happy and Healthy Gluten-Free New Year, Connecticut!
Abby Helman Kelly is the founder and owner of www.glutenfreeconnecticut.com, the state’s most comprehensive and up-to-date gluten-free resource. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in counseling psychology, and has been gluten-free for 5 years. Abby loves exploring the state and finding new gluten-free gems to share with her Connecticut neighbors via her website, community partnerships, and healthy eating festivals. She can be reached at [email protected] or 860-836-5041.