We often hear about gluten intolerance, and there is a huge movement to eliminate gluten from our diets.
In conventional terms, gluten-sensitive enteropathy (an autoimmune inflammatory disease of the small intestine) can only be diagnosed through a small bowel biopsy.
Fortunately, gluten-free foods are readily available for people who are sensitive to gluten. An entire gluten-free industry has sprouted in recent years.
But first you must understand what gluten is: Gluten is a general name for proteins found in wheat varieties (durum, emmer, spelt, farina, farro, Khorasan, and einkorn), rye, barley, and triticale.
Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting like a glue that holds food together so that when flour and water are mixed they can become dough. Gluten is found in many foods, even ones you wouldn’t expect.
Gluten is the ingredient most likely to cause bloating, diarrhea alternating with constipation, and cramps. People who are sensitive to gluten without having a diagnosable disease also may gain weight and feel sluggish and tired.
So before doing anything aggressive, eliminating gluten from your diet is an easy first step.
One word of caution: Gluten-free on the label does not automatically mean a food is healthy.
Read the ingredients on the label and make sure the no-gluten products you buy are not full of chemicals, sugars, and sugar substitutes such as maltodextrin and sucralose.
Posts by Erika Schwartz, M.D
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