These days many people are intolerant to gluten, not necessarily pathologically allergic, but sensitive enough to cause some profound health effects. Until recently it was believed that 1 in 10,000 people had trouble with gluten. Now it is believed to be closer to 1 in 100. People with gluten intolerance should not eat foods that contain gluten, such as wheat, barley and other grains. Those foods can trigger an autoimmune reaction in the intestines and prevent the proper absorption of nutrients. Severe gluten intolerance, referred to as celiac disease, is an autoimmune disease, like diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. To get the disease, you must have a genetic predisposition and an environmental factor must trigger the disease. Celiac disease is triggered by gluten. Symptoms vary widely and can range from anemia and osteoporosis to diarrhea and constipation, though some people do not have any symptoms at all. The varied symptom profile is one of the most obvious reasons that the average person takes 11 years to receive a correct diagnosis. All of this from a tiny little part of the grain that most of us eat every day.
Solving this problem is as easy as removing gluten from the diet. The reality is really quite different as grains and gluten are found in so many things that we eat. The basis behind any gluten free plan will be whole, fresh, raw foods, vegetables and fruits as well as meats (if you choose) and the strict adherence to a no grain policy. Some grains seem to be ok for some patients while others must totally abstain. It seems easiest to remove all grains and after symptoms leave, slowly and delicately try adding one of the less reactive grains back into the diet and see if symptoms reoccur. This testing method will allow one to build a diet that is tailored to them and gives them the flexibility to decide when they are strong enough to test new foods. The list of gluten containing foods is enormous because it is often used in processed foods as a stabilizer or thickener among other things. Wheat in all its true forms, including Kamet and spelt, barley, rye and triticale are definite no-no’s. Oats are sometimes off limits and are usually a case by case basis. Grains that can almost always be consumed as long as there are no other sensitivities include corn, rice, potato, tapioca, arrowroot, amaranth, millet, montina, quinoa, taro, and sorghum. The gluten present in many grains is different from wheat gluten in how it reacts in our gut. That’s why many people can tolerate some of the above grains while others cannot at all. Reading labels to find the gluten or grain product in a processed food or drink or condiment becomes more and more important the further from fresh whole foods we move.