Many people try to recommit to a healthier lifestyle after the turn of the New Year. If that’s been your goal so far these first few months, you may have been avoiding gluten.
Millions of people in the US have some form of gluten intolerance, and many more have yet to be diagnosed. Most people that suffer from gluten sensitivity experience gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating, gas and diarrhea when exposed to gluten in their diets. But, for some individuals, gluten can also cause other symptoms like joint pain and rashes. Whether you have celiac disease or a milder form of gluten intolerance, a gluten free diet is a sure cure for your symptoms; however, the diet can be difficult to follow partially because of the potential hidden sources of gluten.
All too often, people realize that they have ingested something with gluten too late. While restaurants and food manufacturers are getting better in putting labels on there, it’s not always perfect.
When starting a gluten free diet it is very helpful to work with a dietician who can teach you which grains are safe, how to navigate those tiny ingredient labels for sources of gluten, and how to nutritiously replace gluten containing foods in your diet.
Some foods that contain gluten will be obvious (wheat thins), but others may not. Lunch meat, hot dogs and sausage for instance, may contain gluten. Other hidden sources of gluten can be found in vinegars, marinades, bouillon cubes, gravies and cheese spreads. You even need to check your favorite flavored teas, candy and dried fruit for gluten!
Last but not least, we need to consider daily medications and vitamins. Many tablets contain inactive ingredients – binders and fillers that contain gluten. Labeling that reports starch, modified food starch, dextrates, dextrin and malt are of particular concern. Your pharmacist can assist you in determining whether your medication or supplement could contain gluten and whether a gluten free product is available or could be custom compounded for you.
Recently, there has been some research done to determine if there is a “safe” level of gluten for gluten intolerant patients. One study reported that 10mg gluten per day was safe for most Celiac patients. As a point of reference, the Center for Celiac Research reports that 10mg of gluten is equivalent to one crumb from a slice of wheat bread. While we wait for more data to become available, many practitioners advocate for complete avoidance; but, patients do show varying responses to gluten and are probably best managed on an individual basis.
We hope this information has been helpful. We’re also including links to additional resources below. Please feel free to call us if we can be of any assistance, and best of luck to you on your journey towards becoming gluten free!