It’s estimated that 1 in 133 Canadians or 250,000 people have celiac disease (an it’s growing) and approximately 3 million Americans. It’s a lifelong, genetically based disorder that occurs when gluten – a protein found in wheat, rye and barley – triggers an abnormal immune response that damages the lining of the small intestine interfering with the absorption of vital nutrients. It can be painful and debilitating.
Symptoms can include anemia, diarrhea, arthritis, intense abdominal pain, weight loss and, in children, delayed growth. But most people have symptoms that are subtler, such as bloating, excess gas or fatigue.
People who have gluten ‘sensitivity’ will also benefit from a gluten-free diet. These people test negative for celiac disease but react poorly to gluten and may report abdominal pain, headaches, irritability, depression and chronic fatigue. There’s no evidence, however, that following a gluten-free diet will promote weight loss or offer any health benefit beyond helping gluten-sensitive people. It’s not a miracle fad diet.
If you decide to drop gluten from your diet, be sure to include gluten-free whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa (protein superfood), amaranth, and millet to help you get your daily fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. These are superstar grains. I for one, live on quinoa daily.
Don’t fall into the trap of filling up on gluten-free breads, bagels, cookies and snack foods. THESE ARE JUNK!! Processed junk food that you pay dearly for. Many of these foods are refined and have been stripped of fibre and nutrients. And unlike wheat flour, these products are not fortified with vitamins and minerals. Many are also higher in carbohydrates and sodium.
Gluten-free diets tend to be low in fibre because wheat bran – a major source of fibre – is off limits to people suffering from celiac disease. I can’t stress this enough that it is absolutely critical to increase your GREEN VEGGIE intake (Green Smoothies make it really easy) and to also include two tablespoons of ground flaxseed or chia seeds into your daily diet.
Make a conscious effort to drink 6-8 glasses of fresh spring water a day (Did you know you should drink HALF your body weight in ounces EVERY day?). Legumes and lentils are also high fibre foods and awesome for a gluten-free diet. Eating at least three fruit servings every day will boost your fibre intake, too.
The best course of action is to be diligent with a healthy whole food diet and to try to repair the damage in the small intestine. A diet centred with a variety of leafy greens (KALE!!) and better yet, green smoothies that will provide the much-needed vitamins and minerals that your body has gone without due to the chronic inflammation in your small intestine (and hence, stops the absorption of vitamins and minerals).