Gluten, is it affecting your life?

Do you suffer with digestive symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, constipation, acid reflux, excess gas, or stomach pain? As a holistic nutritionist, I am frequently contacted by clients who are suffering with these gastrointestinal problems . I can empathize with these clients as I; too, have suffered with these symptoms in the past. However, in the last three years I have followed a gluten and dairy free diet and I no longer experience symptoms of gastric distress. I would like to share with you some information on gluten.

Gluten is a protein contained in the grains of barley, rye, and wheat and within the wheat family in the form of spelt, kamut, couscous, and durum wheat. Oats, although not gluten containing, are best avoided on a gluten free diet because there is a high potential for gluten contamination during the commercial growing process . Oats, certified gluten free, can be purchased.

Gluten sensitivity is caused by an abnormal immune response to gluten, which results in the body’s inability to tolerate foods containing gluten. This auto immune response causes inflammation within the small intestines whenever gluten is ingested. The inflammation causes damage to the intestinal villi. Villi are small hair-like projections in the small intestine that absorb nutrients from foods and other ingested substances. Celiac disease is the end stage of gluten sensitivity with the complete destruction of intestinal villi.

The inability to digest gluten can cause a myriad of symptoms such as:
Diarrhea, constipation, digestive upsets i.e.- bloating, weight loss, fatigue, joint and muscle pain, nausea, skin rashes and more. Some people may not experience any of the above symptoms or the symptoms may be delayed by hours or days depending on the person’s degree of sensitivity to gluten.

Below are some of the foods to avoid and foods to enjoy if following a gluten-free lifestyle.

Foods to avoid: Commercial salad dressings (often thickened with wheat), puddings, spices and pre-packaged grated cheeses (wheat is added to prevent clumping), malt, malt vinegars, spelt, wheat, rye, barley, kamut, couscous, beer, Worcestershire sauce, gravy powders, anything breaded (i.e. breaded fish), and most toothpaste. Remember: Anything canned or packaged, unless a product is specifically labeled “gluten-free”, should always be suspect. You may not find the word “gluten” in the list of ingredients, but it doesn’t mean it is a gluten-free product.

Foods to enjoy: Buckwheat, rice, quinoa, coconut, corn, certified gluten-free oats, potatoes, hard cheeses, arrowroot flour, nuts, seeds, milk, goat milk, almond or rice milk, legumes, fresh fruits and vegetables, meats (not breaded). Gluten-free bread, gluten-free crackers, gluten-free beers, and gluten-free sauces are available in many health food stores.

If you would like more information on living a gluten-free lifestyle, please visit The Granary at 107 Bridge Street, Carleton Place. The Granary carries a growing selection of gluten free products for your dietary needs. Dawn Bone R.H.N. will be available at the Granary on Tuesdays from 9am to 3pm and Thursdays from 2pm to 8pm.

Written by Dawn Bone R.H.N. Article first published in the Canadian Gazette, September 2010.