How a Gluten-Free Diet Can Change Your Life

Monday, 29 Nov 2010 10:16 AM

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Who needs a gluten-free diet?
Celiac disease causes people to develop an inflammatory immune system response to gluten that results in damage to the small intestine, which inhibits absorption of nutrients. Some people also develop dermatitis herpetiformis, an itchy and blistering skin condition. The only treatment for celiac disease is a gluten-free diet. The person afflicted with celiac disease must completely avoid foods that contain gluten and should follow a gluten-free diet plan with a variety of alternative recipes.
 
What is gluten?
A gluten-free diet is a diet that is completely free of gluten, which is a generic term for storage proteins found in grains. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Celiac patients avoid wheat, barley, rye, and sometimes oats as well, but they should also avoid gluten in a wide range of other foods.

Some food items such as soups, sausages, processed meats, and ready meals or crisps may contain gluten. All food ingredients should be read carefully to ensure that the item does not contain gluten. Totally eliminating gluten from the diet is not easy, and it does require vigilance to make sure that gluten does not sneak into the diet. However, many patients do benefit from a gluten-free diet, which makes the effort worthwhile. A dietitian should be consulted to develop a gluten-free diet plan that includes careful monitoring, and gluten-free recipes.
 
What do gluten-free diet recipes contain?
Gluten-free foods include rice, corn, soy, potato, sweet potato, tapioca, beans, sorghum, quinoa, millet, arrowroot, amaranth, nut flours, and buckwheat. However, some commercial buckwheat products are mixtures of wheat and buckwheat flours and should be avoided. Other gluten free foods that are allowed includes fresh, canned, and frozen fruit or fruit juices, fresh vegetables, canned and frozen vegetables without gluten-containing additives, milk, yogurt, aged cheese, honey, all unprocessed meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dried beans, nuts, seeds, wine, and saffron. Using these alternatives, a number of gluten-free diet recipes can be prepared for gluten intolerant people.
 
What happens after you start a gluten-free diet plan?
For most people, following gluten-free diet recipes will relieve them of certain symptoms, heal existing intestinal damage, and prevent further damage. Improvement begins within days of starting the diet. The small intestine usually heals in 3 to 6 months in children but may take several years for adults. A healed intestine means a person now has villi that can absorb nutrients from food into the bloodstream.

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