Free your diet from hidden gluten
By Pure Matters
Bread is often called the staff of life. But for those who have a genetic inability to absorb gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and some oat products, that staff may feel more like a big bully stick right to the stomach.
If you have celiac disease (CD), this is what happens: When your body is exposed to gluten, the membrane that lines your small intestine gradually loses its usual texture, becoming inflamed, smoother, and less and less able to absorb nutrients. As a result, you can suffer increasingly acute abdominal pain and swelling, diarrhea, fatty yellow stools, weight loss, and lack of energy. And that's just the beginning. Undiagnosed CD can lead to intestinal damage, gastrointestinal cancers, and serious autoimmune disorders such as insulin-dependent diabetes. In addition, the nutritional deficiencies that are a hallmark of the disease can precipitate a host of seemingly unrelated problems, including osteoporosis and even fetal distress. Once you know you have CD, dietary changes can soothe your stomach and reverse the damage that can lead to more serious illness.
The only way people with CD can remain disease-free is to swear off gluten forever, eating only gluten-free grains (such as rice, corn, sorghum, flax, amaranth, buckwheat, and quinoa) and nut-, bean-, or potato-based flours. In the total absence of gluten, most of the symptoms of CD disappear within six months, says Joseph Murray, MD, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic. And recent research indicates that within five years of starting treatment, a celiac's risk of malignancies diminishes to match that of the general population.
Uncovering Where Gluten Hides
Trouble is, eliminating gluten from your diet doesn't just mean eliminating foods made from grains that contain gluten. Gluten itself is used as a food additive, so it might show up where you don't expect it. And finding it on a food label can be tricky. Gluten is contained in other food additives ("modified food starch," for instance), so it's often not mentioned by name.
Here are a few of the foods that may contain "undercover gluten":
- Bouillon cubes
- Cottage cheese
- Herbal teas (some)
- Ice cream
- Instant coffee
- Meat sauce
- Non-dairy creamer
- Salad dressing
- Soup (mixes and cans)
- Sour cream
- Tomato sauce
- Yogurt with fruit
A registered dietitian can help and can even suggest ways to help you stick with your gluten-free diet. To find one near you, ask your doctor for a referral or contact the American Dietetic Association. Another big help: gluten-free products, which are available in some health food stores, in an increasing number of grocery stores, by catalog, or online.