Going Gluten Free

Gluten free prod­ucts

Gluten free prod­ucts seem to be every­where nowa­days.  This is great for peo­ple who are sen­si­tive to gluten and those that have celi­ac dis­ease, but it’s not a weight loss panacea.  Many of the prod­ucts are actu­al­ly high­er in calo­ries than the wheat equiv­a­lent and some­times even cost more.  Unless you have been diag­nosed with a gluten sen­si­tiv­i­ty or celi­ac dis­ease, you do not need to go gluten free.

What is celi­ac dis­ease?

Celi­ac dis­ease, celi­ac sprue or gluten sen­si­tiv­i­ty enteropa­thy (GSE) is an autoim­mune dis­ease. It affects near­ly one in 133 peo­ple, adults as well as chil­dren.  Yet, 97% of peo­ple don’t know they have it.

When a per­son with celi­ac dis­ease eats gluten, it cre­ates an immune reac­tion that caus­es inflam­ma­tion and dam­age to the small intes­tine, this pre­vents ade­quate  absorp­tion of nutri­ents.  Celi­ac dis­ease is not a food aller­gy but an autoim­mune dis­or­der.  Even small amounts of gluten can cause health prob­lems and there may or may not be any symp­toms.

What is gluten sen­si­tiv­i­ty?

Non-celi­ac gluten sen­si­tiv­i­ty is a non-aller­gic non-autoim­mune con­di­tion and doesn’t cause inflam­ma­tion of the intes­tine.  It does cause GI issues sim­i­lar to celi­ac dis­ease, such as bloat­ing, gas, diar­rhea. Unlike celi­ac dis­ease you can­not test for a gluten sen­si­tiv­i­ty but it can be diag­nosed by exclu­sion. Mean­ing, if you test neg­a­tive for celi­ac dis­ease and test neg­a­tive for a wheat aller­gy, yet you still have a neg­a­tive response to gluten, you can exper­i­ment with a gluten free diet and see if your symp­toms sub­side.

What is gluten?

Gluten is the com­mon name for the pro­teins found in wheat, bar­ley, rye and trit­i­cale.


There are a broad range of symp­toms, here is a sam­pling  of some of them:

abdom­i­nal bloat­ing

abdom­i­nal pain


diar­rhea or loose stool



reduced gut motil­i­ty


unin­ten­tion­al weight loss or weight gain

fatigue, lack of ener­gy

missed men­stru­al peri­ods

bone or joint pain

Vit­a­min K defi­cien­cy

How to get test­ed?

In order for the diag­no­sis to be accu­rate, a per­son with celi­ac dis­ease has to be eat­ing gluten for at least four weeks.  A blood test which tests for anti­bod­ies, is the first step in diag­nos­ing the dis­ease.  When the blood test is pos­i­tive for celi­ac diease, a small bow­el biop­sy is need­ed to con­firm the diag­no­sis.  It also gives an indi­ca­tion of the dam­age to the vil­li in the intesti­nal lin­ing.

When the anti­body test, as well as the biop­sy is incon­clu­sive, genet­ic test­ing of the human leuko­cyte anti­gen, DQ2/DQ8, can be help­ful. This gene indi­cates a pre­dis­po­si­tion to devel­op celi­ac dis­ease but does not nec­es­sar­i­ly  mean the per­son will devel­op celi­ac dis­ease.

Celi­ac dis­ease can occur at any time in a person’s life.  If diag­nosed, encour­age your fam­i­ly mem­bers to get test­ed as well.


The only treat­ment for celi­ac dis­ease or gluten sen­si­tiv­i­ty is a gluten free diet.

What you can eat

If you can’t eat gluten, which is found in whole grain bread, pas­tas, cere­als, you may won­der what is left to eat?  There is a whole range of foods you can eat, such as: rice, corn, tapi­o­ca, beans, sorghum, quinoa, mil­let, buck­wheat, arrow­root, ama­ranth, teff, soy, pota­to, flax and nut flours.  Uncon­t­a­m­i­nat­ed oats in mod­er­a­tion is tol­er­at­ed by most celi­acs. Make sure it is gluten free.

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