Your Health: Gluten-free lifestyle helps with certain allergies | CraigDailyPress.com

Your Health: Gluten-free lifestyle helps with certain allergies

Gluten, which can be found in bread products, has been identified as something that some people are allergic or sensitive to.

Selecting foods that will boost your health and avoiding those that are harmful are some of the basic components of nutrition, but the two actions aren't necessarily one and the same.

Among the most controversial parts of a daily diet is gluten, a protein composite found in grains such as wheat, barley and grain. The makeup of gluten causes it to do great harm to those with celiac disease, affecting the small intestine's villi and preventing nutrients from absorbing into the body properly.

Those suffering from full-blown celiac disease can develop long-term health problems if they remain untreated, with issues such as osteoporosis, intestinal cancers, multiple sclerosis and neurological or autoimmune disorders a greater possibility.

The Celiac Disease Foundation estimates that about 1 in 100 people worldwide have the disease, with about 2.5 million Americans undiagnosed.

Celiac disease is not the same as a wheat allergy, though many people exhibit sensitivity to the substance classified as gluten intolerance. Testing for the disease is far more conclusive than testing the sensitivity even though the two conditions share symptoms such as foggy mind, depression, abdominal pain, diarrhea and chronic fatigue.

A gluten-free diet is a must for those with celiac disease and recommended for the gluten sensitive, and more and more options continue to be available in lieu of gluten-heavy products such as bread, pasta, cereal, beer and other foods, with some of these featuring special recipes that avoid the troublesome material altogether.

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Fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry, fish and dairy all are naturally gluten-free.

While some people need to be aware of their condition, others tend to hop on the bandwagon, thinking a gluten-free diet to be something everyone should practice. Although this can improve some elements of your body, this approach easily can go wrong the way.

Dietitian Lindsey Hester said the gluten-free lifestyle can unfortunately be considered a "fad diet."

Nobody truly needs gluten to survive, so cutting it out of your life won't leave you deprived of irreplaceable vitamins, minerals or other elements of bodily health. It's what you substitute into your meals that makes the difference.

For instance, the thinking that going gluten-free will lead to weight loss is hardly correct, Hester said.

"A lot of people start eating more meat and cheese and that has a lot of fat content," she said.

Additionally, many of the conditions associated with gluten sensitivity aren't always traced back to that as a cause.

"One thing I've heard of is people trying to go off gluten to try to help arthritic symptoms, and I've never heard of it actually helping anyone," Hester said. "I have heard it helping with headaches and digestive and skin issues."

May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month, and http://celiac.org offers many resources for those who suffer from the ailment or the sensitivity, including a seven-day meal plan and the program Week Without Wheat.

Also, the site stresses that a self-diagnosis will not work. Any concerns about gluten in your diet should be discussed with a medical professional.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.

Gluten

— Gluten is a protein composite found in wheat, barely and rye that can cause severe health reactions in certain people. Those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should also be aware of processed foods and read labels to ensure gluten isn’t ingested. Fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry, fish, dairy, beans, legumes and nuts all are naturally gluten free, as are the following grains and starchy foods:

• rice

• cassava

• corn

• soy

• potato

• tapioca

• sorghum

• quinoa

• millet

• buckwheat groats, or kasha

• arrowroot

• amaranth

• teff

• flax

• chia

• yucca

• gluten-free oats

• nut flours

Source: Celiac Disease Foundation