Many people are used to the concept of gluten free when it comes to those who suffer from Celiac Disease. What they don't realize is that there are perhaps more people who have gluten sensitivity. These people are unable to eat gluten but may not have the same painful and devastating reaction to it that those with Celiac Disease do.
An elimination diet is one way to see if gluten is a problem for your body. Removing all sources of gluten from the diet, every last crumb, for 21 days is the first step. This requires reading the label and making sure that there is no gluten in the ingredients. At the end of 21 days you may find that many of your previously unobserved symptoms have disappeared. You may have less bloating, less gas, less diarrhea or constipation, less gut irritation, less heartburn. You may also find that you feel better, your mood is improved, your frequent headaches are gone, you feel more energetic. These could all be symptoms that gluten sensitivity has been a problem for you; one which you were not aware of.
Writing down how you feel every day for the 21 days is helpful. Not a detailed journal, but perhaps a few words about how you feel physically and emotionally. It is useful to write down how you are feeling as often we think we will remember from day to day, but frequently we either forget or get confused as to which day was which.
The second part of the elimination is to then challenge your system after 21 days. To have a piece of bread, some crackers, or something with gluten in it. If you have a response that often can be a clear indication of food sensitivity. If you are uncertain as to whether the response was to the gluten you can wait five days and challenge again.
A second method for discovering food sensitivity is to test for it through blood. A sample is drawn and sent to a lab where the blood is exposed to a number of different foods. If there is a reaction that reaction is gauged as to severity. The end result shows food sensitivity. This can be done for a large number of food substances however gluten is almost always included because it is a food that many people are sensitive to.
If you have a food sensitivity to gluten it is important that all sources of gluten be removed from the diet.
When it comes to avoiding gluten a useful mnemonic is BROWS – Barley, Rye, Oats, Wheat, and Spelt. These are the grains that contain gluten and which should be avoided. Any grain not on this list, rice, corn, amaranth, quinoa, teff, buckwheat, millet, etc. should be safe to consume.
The one exception to the BROWS rule is oats. Oats do not specifically contain gluten, however they are often grown near or warehoused or transported with glutinous grains. Gluten free (GF) oats are an acceptable choice. It is important to note that if you eat them and do not feel well, in spite of the GF status, discontinue eating them.
Brands that are gluten free include:
- Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Oats
- Cream Hill Estates
- GF Harvest Gluten Free Oats
- Gifts of Nature
- Only Oats
- McCanns (they claim to process in a dedicated oatmill although they do not have GF certification - consume with caution)