Going Gluten-free

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A beginner’s guide to the why and how of removing gluten from your diet. 

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in all forms of wheat, rye and barley. It is most commonly found in food but also hides in medicine, vitamins and make-up. The first thing you should do when starting a gluten-free diet is schedule a meeting with a skilled dietitian or nutritionist. A dietitian or nutritionist can help you learn the basics of a gluten-free diet and help you find ways to adapt your lifestyle.

What happens if you eat gluten?

Gluten is essentially toxic to people with Celiac Disease. Unlike an allergic reaction, someone with Celiac will not go into anaphylactic shock if they eat gluten, instead experiencing physical symptoms such as: diarrhea, severe abdominal pain, skin rashes or headaches. Continuing to consume gluten puts you at risk for long-term damage to the small intestines. There is no medical treatment to prevent the body from attacking the gut once gluten has been ingested.

The gluten-free diet

Gluten is a protein found in all forms of wheat, rye and barley. It’s most commonly found in food, but also can hide in medicine, vitamins and make- up. After being diagnosed, you should schedule a meeting with a skilled dietitian or nutritionist as soon as possible to help you learn the basics of a gluten-free diet and find ways to adapt it your lifestyle.

How quickly does the gluten- free diet work?
Patients who strictly follow the gluten- free diet can begin to experience relief of symptoms within a few days, although it can take up to six months for the small intestine to heal in children and potentially two years to repair fully in adults. Don’t expect immediate results, just keep following the gluten-free diet and you’ll feel better soon enough!

What are some unsafe ingredients to avoid especially when ordering/eating out?

Barley, Bran, Croutons, Dextrin, Rye, Macha, Malt, Oats, Rice Syrup, Tabbouleh, Udon, Wheat.

What are some safe ingredients?

Milk (not flavoured with ingredients that contain gluten, such as malt), 100 per cent fruit or vegetable juices, fresh fruit and vegetables, butter, eggs, lentils, beans (in their natural, unprocessed form), peanuts, seeds (such as flax), tree nuts (such as almonds), quinoa, fresh fish (cod, salmon, etc), fresh shellfish (clams, oysters), fresh meats/ poultry (unbreaded), honey and water (including bottled, distilled, spring).

How do you maintain a balanced diet while gluten-free? Adjusting to a gluten-free diet can be tricky, so it’s important to ensure you are getting all the nutrients you need to stay healthy. Fortunately, many of the healthiest foods, such as vegetables, fruits, beans/lentils, nuts and seeds, low-fat unflavoured dairy products, lean meats, fish, and chicken are naturally gluten-free.

On the other hand, some gluten- free products increase the sugar or fat content to compensate for texture and flavour changes that can result from the removal of gluten. Look for products that do not have sugar, syrups, or fat listed high on the ingredient list.

When first starting a gluten-free diet, it also can be beneficial to meet with a dietitian or nutrition specialist who will help you get started and stay healthy.

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