The medical diagnosis of celiac disease was not named until the middle of the twentieth century, yet one in 133 people today have this genetic disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that prevents people’s bodies from properly processing the proteins in wheat, rye and barley. People with celiac disease must avoid these grains or face damaging their small intestines. Additionally, people who are gluten intolerant face a whole host of associated diseases and disorders, especially when diet restrictions are not followed.
Those that do achieve a rigid gluten free diet can do a few things to further enhance these results. It’s not possible to outgrow celiac disease, so it’s important that diagnosed patients learn to live without gluten. Not surprisingly, what is considered a healthful gluten free diet is simply a healthful diet. It includes fresh fruit and vegetables, lean proteins and water. While it is restrictive in that you can’t have bread, pasta and cereal, there are literally thousands of individual foods and fresh dishes that can be eaten by a person who is intolerant to gluten. Besides, even if you can’t have traditional pizza or pasta, you’ll be able to find a company that makes a gluten free version that is just as good as the real thing!
As you’re easing into the gluten free diet, one of the first things you need to do is learn how to effectively read product labels and ingredient lists. Manufacturers are notorious for sneaking gluten into products that you’d never expect, such as lipstick and prescription medication. It also hides in a lot of processed foods, which is why most experts recommend shopping the periphery of the grocery store. Typically, the processed foods are kept in the middle of the store, while the fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy products are around the outside edge. The only real reason to venture towards the middle is to buy healthful fats like olive and coconut oil. Avoid canola, soy and vegetable oils, and use peanut oil and sesame oil sparingly.
Gluten free isn’t only healthy; it’s also very “green.” Environmentalists and health professionals encourage buying organic, locally grown whole foods in season. In fact, that’s exactly how to successfully live gluten free. Focus on whole foods that can be dug out of the ground, picked from a plant or hunted and you’ll be on the right track. Visit the local farmers’ market and buy foods that are in season and organic. Look for asparagus and green beans in the spring; tomatoes, corn and peppers in the summer; and root vegetables and squash in the fall and winter. Also, drink half your body weight in (ounces of) water per day.
Living gluten free requires diligence. However, one benefit to celiac disease is that the trigger is known. Since knowing is half the battle, you’re already on your way to living a healthier life. Just remember to eat a diet filled with fresh fruits, vegetables and meat, stay away from processed foods and learn to properly read product labels. With time, you’ll learn how to master your old favorite recipes in a new, gluten free way.