Showing posts with label gluten intolerance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gluten intolerance. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Going Gluten Free: The Controversy Continues

It’s a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Often known as the ingredient that provides elasticity in baked goods, gluten has the potential to cause a myriad of symptoms in individuals with a gluten allergy, intolerance, sensitivity or celiac disease.  And it’s a hot topic at the moment. But, while a gluten-free diet is essential for individuals with a diagnosed gluten issue, is there really any benefit to going gluten free for anyone else?

Types of gluten-free diets:

  • An elimination diet
  • A replacement diet

Elimination, as the name suggests, requires removing any gluten from the diet. In many cases, an elimination diet resembles a low-carbohydrate diet, where items containing gluten, such as breads, pasta and baked goods, are no longer consumed on a regular basis.  However, to completely eliminate gluten from the diet, individuals need to be conscious of all the food items that might contain the protein, such as soups, sauces and gravies, for example. A typical meal with an elimination diet includes a portion of protein, vegetables and a gluten-free starch; dessert on a diet eliminating gluten can be fruit.

A replacement diet, however, requires finding items to substitute for those containing gluten. Those who follow a gluten-free replacement diet often look to include breads, baked goods and pasta in their meals in moderate amounts.  These replacement food items are made with a variety of gluten-free flours.

Some otherwise healthy individuals claim going gluten free has helped them:
Lose weight
Boost energy levels
Alleviate gastrointestinal distress

Yet, experts warn against these claims.

According to Dr. Daniel A. Leffler, director of clinical research at the Celiac Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, there is no significant benefit to going gluten free for the average person.

In fact, Dr. Leffler claims the practice is a “waste of money” because gluten-free products are expensive. To be clear, Dr. Leffler is referring to a gluten-free replacement diet.

Drawbacks of going gluten free (for those not suffering from celiac disease, gluten intolerance, sensitivity or allergy):

Possibility of overeating
Loss of vital nutrients such as iron, calcium, fiber, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folate
Higher caloric, fat and sugar content in many gluten-free replacement products
Gluten-free products are typically more expensive

So, what’s the bottom line?  The most recent research suggests those following a gluten-free diet for weight loss or to improve health should really be focusing on lower carbohydrate intake.  A diet that eliminates gluten may be a healthier alternative for those looking to cut carbohydrates and calories; a gluten-free replacement diet would not be suggested.

Gluten- free diets that replace food items containing gluten with gluten-free alternatives should be left for those who really have an issue with gluten. To date, medical findings do not appear to support utilizing a gluten-free replacement diet for those who have no gluten intolerance, sensitivity, allergy or celiac disease.

For additional information on gluten-free diets and acceptable foods, visit:

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Living with (and Being) Someone with Food Intolerances

It seems like you can’t go a day without hearing about someone who has a food intolerance, or knows someone that does. Restaurants all over the world are adjusting and marking up their menus due to the onslaught of people who are discovering that they have an allergy or an intolerance to a certain food. What used to be a simple diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is turning into an intensive search for the crux of the digestive ailment, and more and more folks are finding that certain foods are triggers.

Sliced bread

While the lifestyle change for the sufferer can be significant, what about for those around them? How do you go from being able to grocery shop easily without too much challenge, to the monumental task of reading each and every label to ensure that the person you love doesn’t get sick simply by eating their dinner?

The good news: This is a surprisingly simple adaptation, and once you’ve gotten the hang of it, it becomes no big deal. But for those just starting out, here are some tips that can make your journey a bit easier, both on you and the one you love.

First, this is a great time to get in some practice using your patience. This isn’t a fast process initially, and you are going to make some mistakes. Accept that, and keep moving forward. Sit down and talk to your loved one(s), and make sure everyone is on the same page. If someone in the family doesn’t want to be part of this, set some boundaries so at least the sufferer’s health is protected. You might consider some basic kitchen rules:
  • Keep offending foods in a specific area, or on a marked shelf in the refrigerator or pantry.
  • Crumbs must be cleaned up immediately.
  • Depending on the severity of the intolerance, you may need to set aside specific utensils, tools, and appliances for use only by the intolerance sufferer.
  • No “oopsies” can occur.
  • This isn’t an opportunity to tease the person with the intolerance – this is usually only an issue with kids, but some adults pose a challenge at times.

Second, make a list of the foods that you usually buy that may be suspect. When starting out, it’s perfectly normal to be unsure of what to look for on a food label. While your loved one may be allergic to soy, you can’t just look for soy on a food label – soy goes by many different names and is in many foods. Before you risk pulling your hair out, here are some great resources for the most common allergens and their many names on a food label.

Next, make sure you have plenty of time when you go to the grocery store, and try to pick a time when it’s not as crowded. Relax, wear comfortable clothing, and if possible, leave small children at home. Then slowly go through the foods you typically buy and evaluate their labels. If a food you enjoy contains an allergen you need to avoid, check out other options there in the aisle, and ask the store if they have foods that do not contain your allergen. Many food manufacturers are becoming more sensitive to allergies, so they produce specially made foods that are marked free of allergens. If you can’t find a substitute, don’t panic! There are plenty of resources on the internet for your favorite foods sans allergens. Check out the Free from Market, the Gluten Free Mall, Allergy Free Kosher, and Amazon.

Do not rely solely on the manufacturer’s allergen statement. While they are often accurate, occasionally, they are not aware that an ingredient is a problem and there is no legal standard requiring them to list allergens, so make sure you read the entire label and compare the ingredients against your cheat sheet.

Woman chopping vegetables

Lastly, explore some new recipes. With our internet age at hand, there are no excuses when it comes to boring food! If you are searching for a recipe free of a specific allergen, simply enter that into your search engine of choice. For example, if you are looking for a dairy-free mint chocolate chip ice cream recipe, simply type in “dairy free mint chocolate chip ice cream.” You’ll get plenty of choices to choose from. Remember that bloggers who write recipes are people just like you and me, so they may have some errors in their recipes, so use your best judgment.

Finding out that you or your loved ones have a food intolerance is not the end of the world, though it can feel jarring in the beginning. Once you get used to it, you will discover new foods and recipes that you would not have tried otherwise, and you find that it is only a minor inconvenience.

Contributing Writer