What to Eat When You Are Gluten Intolerant?

healthy diet, nutrition

The sight of bread and pizza makes us realize that edible flour has a very elastic consistency, binding quality and a chewy texture. This unique glue like property of wheat is due to its protein content called gluten. Gluten is a protein which is formed by bonding of two molecules – gliadin and glutenin. The presence of these two molecules is limited to only certain cereals like wheat, rye, barley, oats, etc. Gluten is a source of protein, both in foods prepared directly from sources containing it, and as an additive to foods otherwise low in protein.

What is Gluten Intolerance?

Gluten related disorders initially appeared as a result of dietary changes associated with the development of the agriculture and gluten containing cereal cultivation. This led to chronic enteropathy i.e. disease of intestine especially affecting the small intestine, caused by an abnormal immune response to cereal gluten proteins and gave rise to gluten related disorders.

Gluten intolerance refers to all conditions resulting from the ingestion of gluten. It includes celiac disease, gluten intolerance or sensitivity.

Gluten related disorders have shown a tremendous increase in the last 10 years. According to Mayo clinic research, celiac disease is now becoming a major public health problem. Approximately, one out of hundred people are suffering from gluten related disorders these days.

Gluten Related Disorders

Celiac disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that occurs in genetically predisposed people. When people eat foods that contain gluten, an immune response is triggered that causes damage to hair like projections present in the lining of the small intestine known as villi. As a result, damage occurs to the small intestine and affects the absorption of various nutrients from food. In other words, it is a hereditary disease that runs in the family. It can occur at any age. It is also known as coeliac disease, celiac sprue, non-tropical sprue, and gluten sensitive enteropathy. Common symptoms of celiac disease vary among people and include fatigue, headache, and gastrointestinal distress including gas, bloating, diarrhoea and weight loss.

Gluten sensitivity

Gluten sensitivity is prevalent among population but it is different from celiac disease. It is not an autoimmune disease and is defined as a condition that causes a person’s body to react after ingesting gluten. It is also known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity. In this condition, the body generally shows gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating, gas, diarrhea, joint pains, fatigue and depression, the same symptoms as seen in celiac disease but it doesn’t lead to intestinal tissue damage, intestinal inflammation and flattening of the absorbing villi in the small intestine.

Dietary Treatment

Gluten intolerance leads to varying degree of mal absorption. Therefore, it is very important to remove the source of gluten from the diet for the treatment. This will help to revitalize the small intestine.

Most of us think of gluten in the form of wheat and bread. However, gluten is also found in barley and rye. Hence all products made from these grains contain gluten and this includes biscuits, breads, burger buns, pizza bases, pasta, cereals, cakes and other bakery items.

There are certain foods which are naturally gluten free. These foods can be safely given to gluten intolerant patients. Such foods include the following:

Grains: Corn (corn flour, corn flakes etc), rice (white, brown, basmati and rice flour), buckwheat, millet, quinoa, sorghum and soy.

Dairy products: Milk, curd, buttermilk, cottage cheese, cheddar cheese and margarine.

Pulses & legumes: All whole lentils/ pulses like chickpea, kidney beans, soy, green gram, cow pea, etc. and their flours.

Nuts & oilseeds: Cashews, almonds, walnuts, pistachios and raisins.

Spices & condiments: Pure chili, turmeric and coriander powder.

Fats & oils: Cooking oils, butter, margarine etc.

Non veg: Chicken, fish or seafood, meat and egg.

Vegetables and fruits: Plain freshly cut fruits and vegetables.

Foods to Avoid

Foods that contain wheat, rye or barley in any form should be completely avoided. The following is the list of such foods:

Bakery products: White, brown, whole wheat, multi grain and other types of breads. Wheat in all forms including semolina, corn flour, biscuits, pasta, etc

Rye: It is considered as an excellent raw material for new types of functional foods and is used to coat or flour meat, poultry, seafood and vegetables. These foods may also be marinated in gluten containing liquid or sauce. It is also used to make alcoholic products. Rye may be a component in breads or various ready to eat foods.

Barley: It is available as flour and also as a component of various products. Processed form of this grain is used as a component of consumer products in the form of thickeners, binders or extenders examples are soups, bread and cereals.

Oats: Various studies have shown that oats are safe for celiac patients but few patients may still be sensitive to oats. Sometimes oats are produced in the same place as wheat, barley and rye and mixing of flours may happen with oats. Pure uncontaminated oats which are labeled as 100% pure oats may be better option for them.

Read the labels

It is important to read the label of any processed food to ensure if it is gluten free. Regulation of labels for “gluten free” on food products may vary from country to country. It only applies to foods that would normally contain gluten. Gluten free is defined as a product containing 20 ppm or less of gluten. It categorizes gluten free food as:

  • Food that is gluten free by composition.
  • Food that has become gluten free through special processing.
  • Reduced gluten content, food which includes food products with between 20 and 100 ppm of gluten.
  • Also read carefully about ingredients with wheat which includes wheat starch, modified wheat starch, and hydrolyzed wheat protein barley and malt. It’s better to avoid these products as they are usually made from barley, malt syrup, malt extract, malt flavoring and malt vinegar.