Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Gluten Free, What Does it Mean?

The issue of gluten intolerance is not a new one but lately it is one that has attracted lots of attention. Gluten intolerance is a characteristic of the digestive disorder called Celiac Disease. Celiac disease affects about 1 in every 133 Americans and consumption of gluten leads to damage to the intestine. It is an inherited and chronic disorder that is only managed by the complete avoidance of gluten. Gluten is the general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and foods made from or containing these items.

A gluten free diet requires that grains like pasta, cereal and bread be avoided unless they are specially made to be gluten free. In addition to these products people with Celiac disease can use potato, rice, soy, amaranth, quinoa, or buckwheat or any of these grains as flour along with bean flour.

Gluten sensitivity or intolerance differs from Celiac Disease in that people with sensitivity do not suffer from the intestinal damage. Understanding of gluten sensitivity is less clear than Celiac disease but for now the recommendation for management is the same as for Celiac disease, complete avoidance of gluten.

Recently gluten free diets have become an area of popular interest which is a good thing if the information is accurate. Improving on the number of gluten free products will help those who have Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance but implying that going gluten free will improve everyone’s health is not grounded in science.

If you suffer from painful intestinal issues talk with your physician about testing for Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity, don’t self diagnose since that could mean you miss out on important nutrients.

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