The truths behind the gluten-free diet

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/09/2020 (738 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The gluten-free diet has become popular but, unfortunately, this has been for all the wrong reasons.

Gluten-free diet restrictions should only be used with a confirmed diagnosis of celiac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis. Blood tests and an intestinal biopsy are used to diagnose celiac disease, which is an auto-immune disorder.

It is also important to note that if you suspect that if you believe you have celiac disease, you should not start a gluten-free diet before diagnosis, as this will skew your results. The signs and symptoms of celiac disease are broad and varied and certainly not limited to gastrointestinal discomfort. They can include anemia, weakness, weight loss, skin issues, bone and joint pain, infertility, migraines, depression, fluid retention and canker sores.

A gluten-free diet is the only treatment for celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis. Too often, people self -diagnose themselves and start a gluten-free diet when celiac disease may not be the issue at all. Gluten-free diets are also being used for weight loss purposes, which is not advised.

Being ‘gluten-free’ means that you must exclude gluten “storage proteins” found in wheat, rye, barley, triticale, spelt and kamut (found in cereal grains). These proteins destroy the small intestinal villa (hair-like) structures in our gut leading to absorption problems. Gluten is found in a wide variety of foods including salad dressings, soups, commercial products, beer and processed meats. Avoid hydrolyzed plant protein (HPP) and hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), as these contain gluten. Patients with celiac disease must read labels and be aware of product changes.

Additionally, creating a separate, gluten-free cooking and food preparation area in your kitchen  is recommended. This should include separate cutting boards, utensils, knives, thermometers, dish and hand towels.

Thorough hand & equipment washing along with proper storage of your specialty items is necessary to prevent cross-contamination.  

Being on a gluten-free diet is restrictive and often requires supplementation of vitamins and minerals. However, many more products have become available in supermarkets over the years, making life easier for patients. The Canadian Celiac Association is a valuable contact and there are chapters throughout the country.

Anyone diagnosed with celiac disease should consult a registered dietitian.

Lisa Lagasse is a registered dietitian and community correspondent for Charleswood. Email her at Charleswoodres@gmail.com

Lisa Lagasse

Lisa Lagasse
Charleswood community correspondent

Lisa Lagasse is a registered dietitian and community correspondent for Charleswood. Email her at Charleswoodres@gmail.com or find her on Twitter: @LisaRD42324393

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