“Gluten-free” is everywhere these days—on recipe websites, in the grocery store, and on restaurant menus. Gluten-free eating is a safe bet for people with gluten intolerance (celiac disease). Gluten is a combination of proteins present in wheat, barley, and rye. When people have celiac disease, their immune system “fights back” against gluten by attacking the lining of the intestines.
Common symptoms of gluten intolerance include chronic diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, abdominal bloating and foul-smelling stool.
Many people with wheat allergy also avoid gluten. Note, though, that gluten is just one type of protein found in wheat, so gluten-free eating may or may not be enough to avoid the effects of wheat allergy. With a wheat allergy, the body rejects various proteins found in wheat by launching an immune response against them. While this does not damage the intestines like celiac disease does, it can lead to a series of other temporary side effects like hay fever, hives, and irritable bowel syndrome-type symptoms.
If you have wheat allergy or celiac disease, consider these tips for avoiding gluten/wheat:
1. Find alternative grains: Quinoa, amaranth, polenta, buckwheat, corn, and millet may make great substitutes for wheat or other gluten-heavy grains.
2. Drink smartly: If you drink, note that a number of alcohol products contain gluten. Wine, sherry, spirits, and liqueurs are usually safe bets. Beer, stouts and lagers are not.
3. Watch sauces and soups: Many gravies, pasta sauces, and soups are thickened with wheat flour. You can still have sauces, but those thickened with corn flour, arrowroot or potato starch are better choices.
4. Get the App: If you dine out, download a gluten-free restaurant finder such as “Find Me Gluten Free” or “Dine GF” to locate restaurants near you with gluten-free options.
Having celiac disease, wheat allergy, or any other food allergy can be difficult at first, but it’s a great day and age to find tasty, healthy alternatives.
If your wheat allergy is difficult to live with, talk to your family doctor or allergist. You may be a candidate for food allergy testing as well as wheat allergy treatment through oral allergy drops. The drops are a form of sublingual immunotherapy and can help desensitize you to food triggers that upset your health.