Receiving a diagnosis of Celiac disease means a complete lifestyle change. The only accepted treatment of Celiac disease is a 100-percent gluten-free diet. Until recently, gluten-free products were sold only in specialty stores, and dietary options were extremely limited.
Those suffering with Celiac disease, however, are not alone. With one in 133 Americans suffering from the disease, that adds up to almost 3 million people. Although nearly 97 percent of cases go undiagnosed, increasing awareness and diagnoses of Celiac disease means the gluten-free community is growing larger every day.
Consequently, more and more gluten-free products are appearing on the shelves of major chains and neighborhood grocery stores. These new products provide better quality and more flavorful food, and variety and flexibility to a gluten-free diet.
In addition to food choices, Celiac patients are now finding a variety of other tools to help them adapt to the dietary change. Online recipes, gluten-free cookbooks, and support groups, as well as newsletters and magazines devoted to living and thriving on a gluten-free diet are often helpful.
What is gluten?
So what does the label “gluten-free” actually mean? In general, gluten-free is anything that doesn’t include wheat, rye, barley or possibly oats. Gluten is not a chemical added to foods but actually a natural part of most grains and flour. Fresh fruits and vegetables do not contain gluten. Being gluten-free means eliminating traditionally prepared foods like breads, cakes, candy, cereal, condiments, cookies, pasta, pizza, pretzels and soups.
Fortunately for Celiac patients, many companies now produce gluten-free products. With these products and some easy substitutes and recipes, a gluten-free diet doesn’t have to restrict all your favorite foods. Here are just a few tips to make following a gluten-free diet easier.
Bread – In place of wheat bread, use almond bread or rice bread which can be found at in the health food section of many grocery stores or online.
Baking – Make your favorite cakes and candies with a flour alternative such as potato starch flour, tapioca flour, soy flour, corn starch, corn flour, cornmeal, white or brown rice flour.
Condiments – Hellman’s mayonnaise and many of Annie’s brand salad dressings (http://anniesnaturals.com) are gluten-free.
Ice cream – Both Cold Stone Creamery and Ben & Jerry’s ice creams are gluten-free and some flavors of Baskin Robbins are gluten-free.
Websites – Many websites are devoted exclusively to gluten-free products, such as http://www.glutino.com, http://www.glutenfree.com, http://www.liveglutenfreely.com and http://www.glutenfreemall.com.
Dining out – Guidebooks are available at websites like http://www.triumphdining.com to point you to restaurants that will accommodate gluten-free diners.
Recipes – Your local bookstore will likely have gluten-free cookbooks and websites like http://www.glutenfreeda.com provide recipes for a gluten-free diet.
Labels – When checking labels for gluten at the grocery store, be aware that gluten can be hidden in caramel coloring, modified food starch and “flavor enhancers.”
Support groups – Blogs, forums and support groups provide advice for the gluten-free diet. Use the experiences of others living on a gluten-free diet as a helpful resource.
Vitamin and Mineral deficiencies – This may be avoided with increased intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. However, supplements may be needed to maintain healthy levels of Vitamin D, B Complex, Folic Acid, Calcium, Iron, and Magnesium. Phosphorus and Potassium is found in adequate amounts in most foods. Consult your physician before adding any supplements.
Being gluten free seems like a huge problem. But as awareness grows and many companies produce more and more gluten free food items, a gluten free lifestyle is getting better all the time.