Learn About Going Gluten Free
Let's start with the basics: "Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and countless foods such as bread and pasta that count those grains among their ingredients," says Kerry Neville, a registered dietitian and food and nutrition consultant. But it's also found in foods you wouldn't think of as having gluten, like many brands of gravies, salad dressings, lunch meats, sauces and soups.
But for nearly 3 million Americans suffering from celiac disease and an untold number of people dealing with gluten sensitivity, the same protein that leavens bread can also give rise to a slew of serious health issues.
For sufferers of the genetic autoimmune disorder celiac disease, consuming even a tiny amount of gluten triggers an attack response that damages the lining of the small intestines, which in turn interferes with nutrient absorption and leads to a bafflingly wide array of symptoms and issues which may include abdominal pain, joint pain, skin rashes, fatigue, unexplained iron deficiency anemia and even osteoporosis. Once definitively diagnosed, strictly avoiding gluten (aka “going gluten-free”) is the only solution that can manage symptoms and promote intestinal healing.
Gluten sensitivity, on the other hand, can exhibit similar symptoms but lacks any conclusive diagnostic tests or intestinal damage. "Diagnosing gluten sensitivity is a bit of trial and error," says Neville. "After a negative [celiac disease] test, their doctor may simply have them try out a gluten-free diet to see if they feel better."
How to Go Gluten Free: