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Posts Tagged ‘gluten-free diet’

352 hidden gluten

Congratulations, you’ve gone gluten free to improve your health! Perhaps you have celiac disease, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, both of which require avoidance of gluten for optimal health. You know to avoid wheat, barley, rye, triticale, einkorn, farro, kamut, spelt, farina, emmer, durum, and semolina, plus most oats because they are commonly cross-contaminated with gluten grains in the field or factory. That pretty much sums it up, right?

Well, not quite. Gluten can actually reside as a hidden component in many common food ingredients, which can make food shopping, restaurants, travel, and potlucks a risky business. In this article, we’ll offer some guidelines for successfully navigating this tricky terrain.

Navigating Food Labels

Manufacturers are not presently required to identify gluten as an ingredient on labels. Just because a product doesn’t list a gluten grain, doesn’t mean it’s gluten-free.

Your greatest tool in determining what is safe to eat is to read food labels, and become familiar with stealthy ingredients that may include gluten. Have you ever seen an ingredient that you can’t identify? If so, it’s best to avoid it. Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of some common ingredients that can contain gluten:

  • Malt, and barley malt
  • Food starch and modified starch
  • Dextrin and maltodextrin — sourced from corn or wheat
  • HPP = Hydrolyzed Plant Protein
  • HVP = Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
  • TVP = Texturized Vegetable Protein
  • “Natural flavor”
  • “Spices”
  • “Artificial flavor”
  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Gelatinized and pregelatinized starch
  • Brown rice syrup

Pre-packaged foods can add a challenge as well. Below are some common foods that may have gluten in them. Look for a certified GF label if you aren’t sure; otherwise, pass it up.

  • Soy sauce (a good replacement is coconut aminos, or wheat-free tamari — 100% soy)
  • Many salad dressings use gluten thickener
  • Gravies, sauces, marinades
  • Fish sauce (common in Thai restaurants)
  • Canned and boxed soups
  • Soup mix
  • Bouillon
  • Licorice candy
  • Instant coffee
  • Coffee substitutes
  • Condiments
  • Puddings and pie fillings
  • Processed meats (gluten is used as a binder in cold cuts, hot dogs, sausages, and some specialty/reformed meats)
  • Many reduced-fat and ready-made foods have binder starches sourced from wheat
  • Ice cream –- look out for added gluten (cookie dough, anyone?) and beware of scoop cross – contamination where ice cream is served
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Imitation crab
  • Some wasabi
  • Vegan meat substitutes
  • Chips (factory cross-contamination)
  • Beer
  • White sauce (made from a wheat flour roux)
  • Worcestershire
  • Communion wafer (ask your church about bringing your own GF version)
  • All Chinese condiments contain wheat, including soy, oyster, hoisin, and bean sauces
  • Some spice companies use glutenous fillers; use only pure, high-quality herbs and spices with no fillers

The Restaurant Dilemma

Restaurants can pose their own challenges. Here are some things to look out for:

  • Fried food; those delectable fries may have been cooked in the same oil that fried the onion rings doused in wheat batter
  • Vegetables may have been par-boiled in the pasta water
  • At Asian restaurants, you may ask for GF but the busy chef may not be looking at the ingredients on the hoisin or fish sauce; ask for no sauce if uncertain.
  • GF foods may be prepared on the same surfaces or with the same utensils that glutenous foods touch.

If you are uncertain at a restaurant, talk to the chef directly. If you aren’t happy with the answer, don’t eat there. Many restaurants are becoming aware of the need for truly GF foods, but it’s always good to make sure they are careful about food prep. Ask friends, and ask local online GF groups about recommended eateries.

Gluten Free Shopping: When In Doubt, Go Without!

When you are new to eating GF, restaurants and grocery shopping can be daunting, but the more you do it, the better you’ll get at determining what goes in your belly. If you aren’t sure, don’t eat it. Ask questions, read ingredient labels; just because those noodles say, “Rice” on the front, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a gluten grain added in. “Wheat-free” doesn’t necessarily mean gluten free. Lastly, always check product labels for warnings that state a food is produced in a factory that also makes gluten-based products; if it is, cross-contamination could be an issue.

The more you do it, the more natural it becomes, and soon you will be navigating your gluten-free life with ease.

Gluten cross-reactivity with non-gluten foods

Non-gluten grain options include: rice, corn, amaranth, millet, quinoa, sorghum, teff, and buckwheat (not actually in the wheat family). However, these grains can cross-react with gluten in some people. This means their body recognizes them as gluten and responds with a reaction. An elimination/provocation diet or food sensitivity test  can let you know which grains are safe to eat. Dairy is another food that commonly cross-reacts with gluten, as is coffee. If your gluten-free diet is not helping you feel better you may need to consider cross-reactive foods.

Diet soda, artificially-sweetened foods

Though it does not actually contain gluten, the artificial sweetener aspartame is recognized as a serious offender for many with gluten intolerance or celiac disease. Since aspartame often triggers similar allergic symptoms, including severe stomach pain and bloating, avoiding it can spare you the pain and suffering.

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gluten-free grain-free autoimmune

For many people, a gluten-free diet erases all their chronic health problems like a magic wand. For others, it doesn’t make a dent, despite a proven gluten intolerance. What gives? A diet that also eliminates dairy, grains, and other foods may be necessary, along with nutritional compounds to restore gut health.

Gluten damages the small intestines and causes chronic inflammation. This inflammation extends to other parts of the body and helps explain why gluten triggers so many disorders, including joint pain, skin disorders (eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, etc.), fatigue, depression, or mood disorders from inflammation in the brain. It even increases the risk of death for people with celiac disease.

A gluten-free diet reduces inflammation and allows the gut to recover, which often alleviates symptoms elsewhere in the body.

However, newer research showed that the small intestines of up to 60 percent of adults in one study never completely healed on a gluten-free diet, especially in those who didn’t adhere to the diet fully.

In another study, only 8 percent of subjects fully recovered gut health on a gluten-free diet for 16 months, and only 34 percent recovered after a gluten-free diet for two years in yet another study.

These are pretty grim numbers for a diet that has taken the natural health world by storm. Does this mean a gluten-free diet is not worth the effort?

Absolutely not.

Going beyond a gluten-free diet for gut healing

These studies shed light on the fact that a gluten-free diet often is not enough to recover gut health. One may still suffer from gut inflammation, poor absorption of nutrients due to damage of the intestinal lining, and leaky gut (leaky gut allows undigested food and pathogens to escape into the bloodstream, where they cause more inflammation).

This explains why some continue to suffer from chronic inflammatory disorders and autoimmune disease despite a gluten-free diet.

So what’s the solution? One is to look for other food intolerances. Because gluten causes leaky gut, undigested food escapes into the bloodstream and provoke an immune reaction. This leads to allergies and sensitivities to many other foods. Ferreting out these foods with a strict anti-inflammatory elimination diet is an important first step. Many people find they feel and function better eliminating all grains, as well as dairy and even legumes.

Using nutritional therapy to unwind gut inflammation

In functional medicine we have also identified nutritional and botanical compounds that can help unwind the chronic inflammation in the gut and, thus, elsewhere in the body. These include nutrients to support glutathione, the body’s main antioxidant, as well as nutrients that dampen inflammation through nitric oxide modulation. Glutathione in particular is essential to repairing and protecting intestinal health.

The botanical compounds resveratrol and curcumin have also been shown to dampen inflammation. Resveratrol is a compound derived from Japanese knotweed, and curcumin is derived from the popular curry spice turmeric. Both are well known for their antioxidant qualities.

Research shows that taking them together creates a synergistic effect, making them potent tools for quenching the inflammation and damage in the small intestines and elsewhere in the body.

Enhancing the gluten-free diet goes the distance

Although a gluten-free diet is vital to restoring health for people with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, it might not go the whole distance. Removing other foods and using nutritional therapy to quench inflammation are also important steps to restoring gut health.

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