Before discussing a gluten-free diet, it's important to discuss what gluten is. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, malt and rye. People with gluten allergies or those with celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, even in tiny amounts. If eaten by someone sensitive to gluten, it can damage the intestines. The point of a gluten-free diet is to have a healthy diet while avoiding any foods that contain this protein.
Celiac disease is genetic, so if you have a close relative with the disease, you have a higher chance of having it. Following a gluten-free diet can be challenging, but your best bet is to be prepared and to find a place to shop for gluten-free products, either in a health food store in your neighborhood, or even online.
What To Watch Out For
For some foods, it's obvious. Anything containing wheat, barley or rye are off limits. But, there are many foods that you wouldn't suspect of having gluten. Some examples are pasta, macaroni shells and such, as more than likely, there is some amount of wheat product.
Also off-limits are bread, muffins, bagels, croissants and the like. If you check in some health food stores, you will however be able to find bread made of rice or potato flour, which is acceptable for those with gluten sensitivity.
Another danger spot is crackers, as most are made with wheat. Some cracker substitutes include rice cakes and corn chips.
Replace cookies and cakes with hard candy, gumdrops or marshmallows.
Beer is made from barley malt, which is to be avoided. Wine and alcohol however, are usually fine.
There are other pitfalls to watch out for, so read your labels carefully. The best way to maintain a gluten-free diet is to shop at a store that sells a variety of gluten-free products. Because celiac disease is becoming more well-known, there are more and more options available for those with gluten sensitivity.
What Can You Eat
Although there are a lot of restrictions on what you cannot eat on a gluten-free diet, there are plenty of great choices for meal planning. Fruits, vegetables, eggs and dairy products are on the list of acceptable foods.
Surprisingly, there are non-food related products that can still wreak havoc if you have a gluten allergy. Certain toothpastes, lipsticks and lip balms, and even medications or vitamins can contain gluten. Always read the label ahead of time, as there are products you can use, as long as you are aware that you will need to purchase them.
While sometimes frustrating, the gluten-free diet can be a success with a little research and preparation.