How is it that
something so basic to our diet found in everything
to biscuits, could cause major health problems? The cultivation of
grains like wheat, after all, helped contribute to the rise of
civilization. We may never have fully adapted to the enormous role
wheat plays in our diet today.
A high fiber diet is an excellent choice for healthy eating, but a person with celiac disease must be careful to choose a gluten free diet. Gluten can be found in a large variety of foods including soups, salad dressings, processed foods and natural flavorings. It is a protein found in wheat or related grains and many high fiber foods that we eat. Unidentified starch, binders and fillers in medications or vitamins. There exists many unsuspected sources of gluten in our diet.
Some people who have trouble with wheat are just simply allergic to it. For those people, symptoms are most likely not centered on the digestive tract. They tend to be similar to other allergies: itching and swelling of the mouth or airways, rashes, and possibly breathing problems. The treatment is the same as for an intolerance - avoid wheat!
Clearly, a high fiber diet can include foods that do not contain gluten such as fruits and vegetables and brown rice. These and many other whole foods will provide what you need for a gluten-free diet, but also supply for a high fiber diet.
Once a wheat or gluten intolerance is identified, the solution may be clear, but not easy. With effort and awareness, a healthy and productive life is yours.
The Gluten Free Diet
There are an abundance of gluten free foods that can bring about health and well-being in the lives of people with celiac disease. Many regular recipes can be altered to be gluten-free. The important thing is to practice understanding and patience while educating yourself and the people around you about your dietary changes.
The best part is that the changes do not include medication or surgery. We don't really need gluten in our diet. It's just a protein and can be replaced by other foods without losing essential nutrients. By getting information from health care practitioners, celiac organizations, websites (like this one), and dietitians, one can be assured of living a full and healthy life. All one has to do is avoid foods with gluten by making safe and healthy choices.
A gluten-free diet means avoiding all foods that contain wheat, rye, barley, and oats. Whether people with celiac disease should avoid oats is unclear because some people have been able to eat oats without any problem. The problem is oat products are often contaminated with wheat.
Let's take a look at the options -
Rice. This is the alternative flour most people try first. It's fairly bland, which makes it good for all-purpose use. Rice flour is a good thickener and can be used to make muffins and bread. Rice bread is often described as heavy and dense.
Quinoa. This grain is native to the Andes Mountains of South America. It's easy to digest and has higher levels of calcium, protein, complex carbohydrates, phosphorous, iron, fiber and B vitamins than barley, oats, rice, corn or wheat. As a result, it's ideal for mixing with other flours to increase the nutritional value of what you're cooking or baking. The flour had a delicate, nutty flavor similar to wild rice and can be used to make a variety of items. If used in large quantities, however, it can overpower the flavor or your baked goods.
Sorghum or milo. There are two varieties of sorghum - red and white. Both have a slightly sweet taste. Nutritionally, this grain is high in carbohydrates, fiber, phosphorous, potassium, B vitamins and protein. Sorghum tends to have a gritty texture. As a result, when used for baking breads, sorghum doesn't hold together well. It works best when blended with other flours. Try it when baking flat bread, cookies crackers or pancakes.
Amaranth. The seeds from this broad-leafed plant are used in their whole grain form, milled into flour or puffed into kernels. This flour is high in protein, fiber, calcium and iron. Use Amaranth in cereals, pastas and baked goods. Add water sparingly when using this mildly, nutty-tasting fine flour for baking bread. It can get crusty on the outside before the dough on the inside is done. It also tends to make baked goods brown more quickly.
Getting your grains:
Great care needs to be taken when buying food at restaurants, dining at someone's home, or just grabbing a snack from the pantry. One must learn to carefully scan for foods with gluten since hidden sources of gluten include additives, preservatives, and stabilizers. Medicines, mouthwash, and processed food are all potential sources of gluten. In time, screening for gluten becomes a very natural process.