***Please consult your doctor if you think you may have either Celiac disease, gluten intolerance or allergy. This information is just for basic knowledge.
A gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes the protein gluten. Gluten is found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye, oats and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye).
A gluten-free diet is used to treat Celiac disease. Celiac disease is the most severe type of gluten intolerance. Gluten causes inflammation in the small intestines of people with Celiac disease which causes malabsorption and other health conditions. Celiac disease can take an average of 11 years of continued onset symptoms to diagnose. The number of people with Celiac disease has increased to 1 in 133 people in the United States. Eating a gluten-free diet helps people with Celiac disease control their signs and symptoms and prevent complications.
Gluten-free diets are also used for those that are experiencing symptoms from eating gluten. Even though you may not have Celiac disease, it is possible that you can have gluten intolerance or an allergy to gluten. Gluten intolerance is also known as gluten sensitivity.
Here are symptoms for gluten intolerance VS gluten allergy:
|Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance/Sensitivity: |
Symptoms of a Gluten (or Wheat) Allergy:
My personal experience:
What's interesting is that gluten sensitivity can affect people differently. I know this from first hand experiences with it. I experienced symptoms at a young age starting around 10 or 11 years old. I remember being sick at many family functions. And it became a norm for me. Some of my family members thought I had depression or hypochondria. It was as if I was over exaggerating or making it up. I remember experiencing symptoms such as extreme fatigue, frequent migraines and nausea. And after eating lots of cakes and cookies at an event or holiday, I would be on the couch, sleeping by the end of the party. I just told my family that I had a headache or upset stomach. During that time, it didn't appear that my symptoms were severe enough to be concerned. But I visited the doctor frequently. They couldn't explain my symptoms. I remember a doctor telling me that I was too young to even know what feeling 'dizzy' even meant.
Over the years, I learned to live with these symptoms. And even as a child, my mom would see a difference in me from just removing snack cakes out of my diet(I just found this out!). As I grew older, I began to research more about nutrition. I experienced some relief eating healthier foods and increasing fruits and vegetables. I hadn't realized though during college years that gluten was causing my troubles and there were times that I ate a lot of it. I would get these terrible migraines once in a while that started to increase about two years ago.
All of the symptoms I experienced as a child started to come on more frequently and with a vengeance. It seemed like those last 6 moths (before I started eating gluten free) were lived in misery and missed work. I experienced mornings that I woke up with such bad brain fog and migraines that I barely knew where I was. I would call into work once in a while with those terrible migraines. I also experienced symptoms of gluten intolerance and I thought I had food poisoning multiple times- vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. It seemed to me that my immune system was just low and I was 'catching bugs' from other people since I worked in the health system. I even had mornings where my throat and nasal passage would close up making it difficult to breath, as well as experiencing hives and skin irritations. It was as if my body had enough and was fighting me.
My significant other at the time( now my husband) worked hard with me to figure out what was causing my sickness and pain. I took vitamins, probiotics and we researched constantly. At this point in my life, I had already studied nutrition in school and ate healthy on a regular basis. But I was still getting sick. Everything started making sense when a friend of mine needed help with eating gluten free since she suspected she had symptoms of gluten intolerance. This wasn't my specialty so I did lots of research on it and provided her with information about it and what to eat. As I read all the symptoms, I sat there in awe, realizing that I had most of them. I would try anything at this point!
It didn't take but a week for me to start feeling some relief. And within a month's time, I was waking up better in the mornings, and starting to recover. I tried a few times to eat something containing gluten since it was so hard for me to believe. And you bet that I woke up sick in the morning! And got hives one time! I knew that gluten was what was causing me to be sick. I can't say that I have had more than 2-3 headaches in the last year. And maybe only one of those was a migraine. Basically ALL of those symptoms have subsided. And I only get them when I eat something that contains hidden gluten.
I am healthier now than I feel like I ever have been! I am so thankful to all of my friends and family who continue to support me through their love and even caution in preparing gluten free meals for me. I am especially grateful to my husband who has been by my side through most of this terrible ordeal.
I just want to say to those of you who are experiencing any of these symptoms- I feel your pain! Hang in there and take extreme precaution to eat gluten free. You will see results if this is what's causing it! Eating gluten free is not an easy life style change but it is for the best. And believe me, it gets easier over time.
Good luck! And please let me know if you have any questions!!
How to eat Gluten Free:
Of course talk to your doctor first about being tested for Celiac if you have serious symptoms. And when you are ready to start eating gluten free, here's how to start:
Step 1- Learn about what foods contain gluten
Step 2- Take all gluten containing foods out of your house or keep them in a separate place in your household. Label all foods in the pantry.
Step 3- Get all of your family and friends involved. Let them know basics of what your experiencing if you must and get them on board with helping you eat gluten free. My family all knows that I am gluten free and they let me know when a dish contains flour or breadcrumbs, etc.
Step 4- Make a conscious daily habit of checking EVERY food label before you eat something. Or don't be afraid to ask your server about it. If the server is unaware of gluten, ask the cook! There are many foods that contain gluten that you would think do not contain it. Don't take chances if you are doing this for health reasons. Gluten can cause malabsorption over time. It's not worth the risk.
Many healthy and delicious foods are naturally gluten-free:
Avoid all food and drinks containing:
In general, avoid the following foods unless they're labeled as gluten-free or made with corn, rice, soy or other gluten-free grain:
Here are some items that I was shocked to find out contained gluten: