Monday, April 13, 2009

Eliminate Gluten: Why Go Gluten Free?

By Cheryl Heppard - Detroit Holistic Health Examiner

My eleven year old daughter has slight allergies and consequently, often gets congested. As a health counselor, I have had many clients who have dramatically improved their health and conditions by modifying their diet to exclude dairy and gluten. Most of us have some type of inflammatory response to both. We determined early on that my oldest daughter is very sensitive to dairy. Recently, we convinced her to try a gluten free diet as well. I already cook a primarily gluten free menu, using brown rice pasta rather than pasta made with refined white flours, and using brown rice, quinoa, lentils and beans liberally as side dishes.

Here is a little more information on how to transition to a gluten free diet.

Who Should Avoid Gluten?

Gluten allergies have become very common and the number of people who are allergic are expected to keep rising. Those who are severely allergic to gluten are known as "celiacs". Some people get severe skin rashes from gluten allergies. Everybody seems to have some kind of an inflammatory response to gluten, and the gluten free diet has become very popular as many health conditions improve once gluten is cut out of the diet, such as arthritis, autism, ADHD, allergies, etc.

What Is Gluten?

Gluten is the protein part of wheat, spelt, rye, barley, most oats, and other related grains. Gluten intolerance is the inability to digest or break down gluten. This condition can range from a mild sensitivity to full blown celiac disease. The skin disorder called dermatitis herpetiformis, which causes a chronic itchy rash of bumps and blisters, is also linked to gluten allergies. The gluten-free diet must be strictly followed by sufferers of celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis.

Around ½% of the world's population is Celiac. This means ~1 in 200 people. Some people are not celiac, but have intolerance to gluten. Some studies show gluten intolerance to be around 30 times more prevalent than celiac disease. Up to 15% of people or 1 in 7 are gluten sensitive and suffer the same symptoms. These are people who test negative or inconclusive for celiac disease. They are known as Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitive (NCGS). Symptoms include gastro-intestinal issues, headaches, mouth ulcers, weight gain or weight loss, poor immunity to disease, and skin problems like dermatitis and eczema.

According to some celiac specialist researchers, everyone has some reaction to gluten, but non-celiacs recover more quickly. Many people report feeling better on a gluten free diet. Many studies have found that a gluten free diet significantly decreases allergy symptoms among children. Some medical practitioners believe that gluten-free diets benefit other conditions as well, such as irritable bowel syndrome, ADD/ADHD, autism, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, thyroid disease and other autoimmune disorders.

Sticking to a gluten-free diet is not easy. Grains are used in many foods, especially processed foods, which everyone should avoid despite gluten intolerances. It is often difficult to determine by an ingredient’s name what may be in it, so it is easy to eat gluten despite the best of intentions. Gluten is used in unexpected ways, so be wary of the following: stabilizing agents or thickeners in foods, over-the-counter or prescription medications, vitamins, cosmetics such as lipstick, and also many lip balms, and even communtion wafers may contain gluten.

Michigan Resources

When I work with clients who have recently become diagnosed as being celiac, have candida, or must avoid gluten for allergies, I recommend visiting the gluten free store in Chesterfield Township, called Celiac Specialties. There also is a new restaurant in Sterling Heights which is completely gluten safe, called GF Cucina.

Whole Foods and Trader Joe's also carry a good selection of gluten free products.


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