You may have heard about gluten after reading the label in oatmeal or any other gluten-free product that is advertised as such. However, what are gluten and gluten intolerance? Is it such a big deal or is this gluten-free trend a temporary hype promoted by the food industry?
What is gluten? How do I know if I am gluten intolerant?
Gluten is the name of a protein that is typically found in wheat, barley, and rye. However, it may be found in other foods when they are in direct or indirect contact with one of these foods. As a protein, gluten has a fraction called gliadin, and the immune system of some people react against this and triggers inflammation. People with this type of reaction suffer from gluten intolerance, and it is not a temporary hype but a scientifically recognized ailment with a set of signs and symptoms that include:
Diarrhoea: It is the most predominant symptom and may lead to malabsorption and dehydration.
Flatulence and stomach rumble: Poorly absorbed nutrients become food for the intestinal bacteria, and they start to produce excess gas.
Abdominal discomfort: It is a result of bloating, and may become severe when gluten intolerance is associated with an inflammatory bowel disease.
Weight loss: Patients lose weight because they have impaired absorption of certain nutrients.
What can I eat if I have gluten intolerance?
The essential thing about gluten intolerance is to avoid products prepared using wheat, barley or rye. This might be challenging at first because many products contain these ingredients, as in bread, pasta, and the major part of crackers. You may also need to stay away from salad dressings and certain types of vinegar because they may contain gluten, and soy sauce is forbidden (unless it is specifically stated to be wheat/gluten-free).
However, some people may still experience annoying symptoms after cutting these ingredients and foods. That is because they are typically not considering something called cross-contamination.
Even though you’re not consuming bread, your food will be contaminated with gluten when it is prepared with the same kitchen tools that were previously in contact with wheat. This is not the case in most people, but if you suffer from severe symptoms, you will likely need a special set of kitchen tools or cleaning them before each use.
But living with gluten intolerance is not extremely painful, and today’s market is becoming quite understanding with this ailment. You can eat any gluten-free product that is advertised as such, especially from a recognized and reputable brand. Fruits and vegetables are in your white list, as well as legumes, nuts, and seeds. Eggs and dairy products are fine unless you suffer from lactose intolerance as well, and even though wheat is forbidden, rice and corn-based products are ok.
As a final piece of advice, be communicative with the staff of the restaurant if you’re eating out. This might be challenging at first, but it doesn’t mean you’re forbidden to dine out. There are plenty of restaurants that offer gluten-free foods properly advertised on their menu. So, be patient and make your modifications step by step. It is possible to live a normal life, even if you have a gluten intolerance.
Check out our interview: How I Discovered I Was Gluten Intolerant
Want a gluten-free recipe? Try our Gluten Free Potato Salad with Roasted Sesame Garlic Yoghurt Dressing