|Living Without Gluten|
by Chris Ellis, Staff Nutritionist
There are more and more people in this country that are recognizing that they are intolerant to gluten. Gluten is the primary protein in wheat, rye, and related grains. One specific group of people that are totally intolerant of gluten is those that have been diagnosed with celiac disease (CD). This is a disease that is due to an autoimmune reaction to gluten; it is not an allergy or intolerance. It has been estimated that one out of 133 people in this country are affected by CD.
People diagnosed with CD can’t outgrow it unlike some with general gluten intolerance. Those individuals diagnosed with celiac disease have damage to the lining of the intestine (the hair-like projections along the interior of the colon called villi are flattened) which results in significant malabsorption of many nutrients. Basically the immune system of people with CD overreacts by damaging the villi. As you can imagine, when the intestine is damaged in this fashion many things can be affected when the body is not able to absorb the nutrients it needs: weight loss, children's failure to thrive and numerous other nutrient-deficiency disorders. Obviously this disease must be attended to with prompt dietary changes. However many people in this country go on for years without diagnosis or treatment. For those who go for a long period without a diagnosis, it can often take a long time to recover since the impact of nutrient deficiencies on the body can be severe. Fortunately now that people are more aware of what it is, CD is being diagnosed earlier. Once a definitive diagnosis is made– generally with a series of blood tests– a complete gluten-free diet must be adhered to all the time. Gluten is found in a lot of hidden ingredients (starches and binders) on food labels so it can take a lot of time to detect and/or research to determine if foods are totally gluten free since even a small amount of gluten in the diet can trigger a reaction. Now that the food industry is more aware of the gluten intolerance problem and CD, there are so many more foods out there that are gluten free. Gluten is found not just in wheat and rye, but in related grains: barley, triticale, kamut, spelt, and durum. Some examples of the commonly used gluten-free grains are quinoa, corn, rice, buckwheat (a member of the rhubarb family not wheat), millet, and amaranth. Oats are often contaminated with wheat in processing since they grow near each other but are gluten free and can be used if specifically labeled gluten free. One common problem with CD diets is that they are often low in fiber, since many of the gluten-free baking/bread mixes are made with starches that are devoid of fiber, so it is important to consume the whole grains listed above and other good sources of fiber such as dried beans, fresh vegetables, and fruits. We are fortunate to have the Co-op that sells a large variety of gluten-free products and grains so it is much easier to follow a gluten-free dietary regimen. Here are two recipes that are gluten free and easy to make! Enjoy!