Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

5 Questions About Gluten-Free Eating

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. We answer your questions about celiac disease and what are some good gluten-free substitutes.

gluten-free-bread

Photo: Vanessa Pike-Russell (Flickr)

This gluten-free bread is made with rice flour, tapioca flour, almond meal and sunflower kernels.

1. How does one determine if they are gluten intolerant? What are the symptoms?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease where gluten destroys the villi in the small intestine, producing a number of symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, rash and headaches. You can determine if you have celiac disease with a blood test and an intestinal biopsy. It’s a good idea to see your health care provider to be tested for celiac disease if you have any symptoms related to consuming gluten.

Some people have gluten sensitivity, which means they have the same symptoms of celiac disease without having the disease itself. There is no test for this condition.

2. Even if we’re not gluten intolerant, should the rest of us cut down on gluten in our diets?

There is no clinical evidence that shows healthy people experience any effects from eliminating gluten from their diets. With that said, I think we need to eat less refined grains.

These days, people are eating a lot more gluten in their diets than in past generations. Our grandparents ate gluten in breads, hot cereal, and pasta, whereas we eat more processed foods and large portions of breads (i.e. bagels and muffins). Additionally, much of the flour used in processing food is a high-gluten form, as it has better baking qualities.

3. What are some examples of whole, gluten-free foods?

It’s important to remember that if you do go gluten-free, you need to replace important nutrients found in grains by eating other whole grains:

  • quinoa
  • brown rice
  • amaranth
  • corn
  • millet

4. Some of our Twitter followers mentioned how going gluten-free has helped behavior issues related to autism. Are there any studies supporting this claim?

There is not enough scientific evidence to confirm that avoiding gluten can help in the treatment of autism. However, many people have found that it improves the condition. More clinical trials need to be performed before we can fully understand this.

Other people report that avoiding gluten helps with multiple sclerosis and arthritis — although, again, there is no clinical evidence to support this.

5. Going gluten-free is a relatively new food trend. Why all the attention to this now?

It is the new trend, no doubt! It has been called the “new low-carb” of this decade.

Keep in mind that a lot of gluten-free foods are highly refined and highly processed — just like any other type of junk food!

More: Read more about gluten-free eating and other dietary topics on Sharon Palmer’s website.

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