How to live a gluten-free lifestyle



By Mary Austin

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What is gluten-free and why should you do it?

You’ve probably heard the chatter surrounding the gluten-free diet, or know someone who is “going gluten-free.”

Gluten is a protein found in wheat and other grains. It makes bread rise and makes pizza crust amusingly elastic.

Unfortunately, like most things in life, you can’t get something for nothing.

With the glories of pasta comes a downside for many — gluten sensitivity. This sounds vague, because it is.

Celiac disease has traditionally been the marker for those who are gluten intolerant. You can go to the doctor and get tested for celiac disease, which is treated by eliminating gluten from your diet.

However, a test result is not always the answer. Many people have issues with gluten that do not show on tests and range from severe (fainting) to mild (acne). Celiac is commonly considered a gut disorder, but any body part can show symptoms.

Gluten prevents the absorption of important vitamins and minerals, so any skin disorder, sleep problem or hormonal imbalance can grow from its ingestion.

Some are using “gluten-free” as a weight-loss tool.

Sensitive people are likely to see results.

For one, as mentioned above, this diet allows vitamins and minerals to better assimilate, and it can help regulate hormones.

Also, eliminating wheat combats the addictive struggles to weight management.

Gluten grains are also often either processed, causing insulin spikes, or of the whole grain variety, which causes another set of problems for some people. Whole grains, while a great supply of fiber, contain phytic acid, which also binds to important minerals.

All of these factors contribute to weight management and gluten can be a vicious hindrance.

It doesn’t help that many prepared foods contain gluten. Cookies, cereal and crackers are all usually made with wheat flour. You can take the bun off your burger, but what about the breading on that chicken strip?

I hate to mention it, but beer has gluten. That’s a tough pill to swallow, I know.

Yet, I’ve had to swallow fewer pills since giving up gluten. No more seasonal allergies, for which I’d usually grab Zyrtec. No more caffeine for the 8 a.m. class. No more upset stomachs and fewer colds. I have shunned gluten for more than two years and have never looked back.

I have “cured” myself of a laundry list of health annoyances.

So what the heck can you eat?

Fruits and vegetables, including leafy greens and starchy root vegetables, provide everything grains do.

Meats, fish, eggs and nuts are all great fuel sources.

A lot of people think they must substitute gluten-containing foods (bread, pasta, crackers, waffles, etc.) with specially made and rather expensive alternatives. This is not necessary.

Part of ridding gluten is getting creative. Wrap a sandwich in lettuce leaves. Make a pasta dish with spaghetti squash. Think about the versatility of potatoes and eggs. Again, sensitivities fall on a spectrum.

You may see no problems with gluten, and lucky you. For those under gluten’s spell, break free and reap the benefits.