What is a gluten free diet?By Veita Bland, M.D. / October 7, 2016
Today, many people have adopted a diet that is gluten free. This eliminates many types of breads, cakes and sweets made with wheat and barley. For some people, it is seen as a great way to eliminate those calories and lose weight. The allure of weight loss may be why we have seen so many people adopt this diet. However, it is not always an easy diet to adopt.
For those who are afflicted with celiac disease, the gluten free diet is far more important. Celiac disease is a genetically determined condition. It is seen in women more than men. Here, there is an allergy to the wheat subspecies such as spelt, durum, and Kamut and their related cousins such as barley, rye and triticale. A small number of these people will also react to oats.
An allergic reaction happens in people with the disease. That reaction damages the small intestine which is rendered unable to perform its job of absorbing nutrients into the body. This may result in patients experiencing large, foul smelling stools. Worse yet malnutrition, weight loss and anemia can result from the body not being able to absorb the needed food, iron, vitamins and minerals needed for life. This is especially so when this is seen in young people.
In older individuals there may not be all of the abdominal signs but rather fatigue and anemia.
There are several thoughts about who will and who will not develop the condition. Early exposure to gluten by an infant is not believed to promote the condition. Some thoughts are that the genetic predisposition is aided by certain viral infections which can promote the condition.
It is incredibly important that someone who has this condition make deliberate plans to prevent exposure to gluten. The food industry has recognized this. Today, there are several gluten free products placed on the market. The labeling that accompanies these products is very important.
These statements are called “allergen advisory statements” and are voluntary. There are limited federal regulations to determine the nomenclature of these statements. The FDA guidelines require packaged foods that use the label of “gluten-free” to contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. Some food manufacturers use these statements as a way of warning consumers of cross contamination such as when they say nuts or wheat are processed in the same facility. However, some manufactures do not use the voluntary statements.
In a recent study most of the foods examined using the term “gluten-free” were actually so. They did note that some products such as teas and spices imported from countries that may not have had stringent standards for gluten contamination were indeed contaminated with gluten. It is believed that the amount of gluten in these spices and teas most likely would not cause a problem.
The study also noted that some of the products that tested positive for gluten contained oats which may have become contaminated during farming or in grain elevators.
People who are gluten intolerant should be aware of these labels.
Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on North Carolina A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays.