Gluten free diets exclude all foods containing gluten, the protein found in wheat. Gluten free diets are a life saver for many people and it is essential for those suffering from Celiac disease. Gluten free diets are often suggested for children and adults on the autism spectrum, and some people do find that they are quite effective. Fortunately, with smart cooking and alternative products, gluten free diets can be varied and flavorful.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, as well as several other grains. Due to processing and growth issues, grains like oats can also be contaminated with gluten and may cause problems for some individuals. This protein is responsible for the traditional texture of bread and other fermentation leavened baked goods. The proteins in gluten mix with water to form a porous structure in the dough, allowing for pockets of air in the final loaf of bread. For some individuals, these same proteins can cause a wide array of serious health problems.
The most common reason to choose a gluten free diet is gluten intolerance. The most severe form of gluten intolerance is Celiac disease. For those suffering from Celiac disease, gluten proteins cause an immune system response that can cause symptoms ranging from bloating and intestinal discomfort to gastrointestinal cancers and other serious health issues. Individuals with Celiac critically need to avoid all gluten in order to preserve their health. Many other people find that gluten causes bloating, intestinal discomfort or other symptoms, even if they have tested negative for Celiac disease.
Gluten free diets can be life changing for those with Celiac disease. After years of poor health, an individual may find that removing gluten improves mood, energy and overall well being. Gluten free diets are also used by some in the treatment of autism spectrum disorders. In this case, gluten free diets may alleviate some of the symptoms of autism and allow the individual to function more typically. While removing gluten from the diet is not difficult, Celiac disease testing does require gluten in the system. If you suspect Celiac, speak to your physician before beginning a gluten free diet.
What to Eat
While a gluten free diet may seem restrictive, there are many foods that are naturally gluten free. Fresh meats, dairy products, fruits and vegetables are all gluten free. Rice, corn, amaranth and quinoa are gluten free, but you may need to be aware of cross contamination and read labels. A number of free flours can be used to allow you to bake breads, muffins, cakes and cookies. Rice flour, tapioca flour and starch, potato starch, sorghum, various bean flours, gluten free oat flour and nut and flax meals can all be used to create tasty and healthy treats.
The market for gluten free foods is growing. Today, it is easy to find gluten free pasta, bread, crackers and cookies on your grocery store shelves. If you are on a gluten free diet, be sure to read product labels carefully and take advantage of published lists of gluten free products to make shopping easier. Adjusting to the coarser textures and different flavors of gluten free foods can be challenging, but with some trial and error you will soon find favorites. Prepared substitute foods are often costly, so consider investing in a gluten free cookbook or two and making your own cake, muffins and breads.