What exactly is gluten free? Simply put, it means excluding gluten from your diet.
There are several reasons you might want to consider losing the gluten, but for some, it’s not even necessary. If you’re one of the lucky ones, your body probably has no reaction to gluten-containing foods, and you can enjoy them as often as you like.
Gluten is a protein in wheat, rye and barley. Think of gluten as the glue that helps dough stick together to form the perfect texture for baked goods and pasta.
You’ll find gluten in the food you eat every day. More than likely, this food is sitting in your refrigerator and cupboards right now. You probably ate gluten in your last meal, and you didn’t even know it.
Is gluten in your diet?
- Do you eat cereal for breakfast?
- Do you eat bread on a sandwich for lunch?
- Do you enjoy pasta or pizza for dinner?
- Do you eat cookies, pie or cake for dessert?
Watch for sneaky ingredients
Beware of any processed foods. If it’s not whole, natural food, it probably contains gluten. Gluten is often used as an added ingredient in many processed foods in coloring, flavoring or seasoning. Health and beauty products also contain sources of gluten that are often overlooked.
Are processed foods in your diet?
- Do you eat canned soup or potato chips?
- Do you eat candy or ice cream?
- Do you take prescription medications?
- Do you use lip gloss?
Instead eat whole, natural foods
A number of options allow you to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, like meat, fruit and vegetables. Companies dedicated to producing gluten-free food have great options to replace the gluten products. Find these products in specialized stores as well as your own grocery store.
What’s ok to eat?
- A variety grains and legumes
- Any fruit and vegetables
- Most dairy products
- Any meat, poultry or fish
Autism & Gluten Free
A recent study at Penn State College of Medicine found that a gluten-free, casein-free diet may lead to improvements in behavior and physiological symptoms for some children with autism. Researchers asked 387 parents to complete a 90-question online survey, which asked questions regarding gastrointestinal symptoms (GI), food allergies diagnoses, suspected food sensitivities and adherence to diet. Parents reported that following a strict diet helped children with improved GI symptoms, language production, eye contact, engagement, attention span, requesting behavior and social responsiveness.
This study is the first use of survey data from parents with children with autism to document the effectiveness of a gluten-free, casein-free diet. Learn more at Penn State News.
People with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity or wheat allergies must eat a gluten free.
What is celiac disease?
Celiac is a disease found in people who have a reaction in their small intestine to eating gluten-containing food. Celiac is a genetic disease, meaning it runs in the family. People with a non-celiac gluten sensitivity may also have similar symptoms.
Symptoms include digestive troubles, such as abdominal bloating and pain, chronic diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, foul-smelling stool and weight loss.
What is a wheat allergy?
A wheat allergy is an allergic response to wheat. The MayoClinic.com says wheat allergies are life-threatening and symptoms can appear within a few minutes to a few hours after eating wheat.
Symptoms include swelling, itching or irritation of the mouth or throat; hives, rash or swelling of the skin; nasal congestion; itchy, watery eyes; difficulty breathing; cramps; nausea or vomiting; diarrhea; and anaphylaxis (a potentially life threatening severe form of allergic reaction).
Identify gluten by reading the label
Wheat is the only gluten product required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be disclosed on a label, and so it might take a little detective work to determine if a product contains gluten.
The label will say gluten free if the product contains no gluten. It’s best to make label reading a habit because the ingredients can change. If you are unsure, contact the manufacturer to learn about the ingredients, or choose another product.
Other names for wheat, barley or rye
Wheat, barley and rye are often found on labels under another name. Look for Triticum vulgare (wheat), Triticale (cross between wheat and rye), Hordeum vulgare (barley), Secale cereale (rye) or Triticum spelta (spelt, a form of wheat) .
Ingredients may hide gluten
Gluten is also hidden in ingredients such as hydrogenated vegetable protein, hydrolyzed plant protein, textured vegetable protein, monosodium glutamate, maltodextrin, vegetable gum and mono and diglycerides.
Sneaky phrases mask gluten
While you’re checking the ingredient list, also watch for sneaky phrases like modified food starch, caramel color, stabilizers, binders, fillers, enriched or natural flavor. These tell you nothing about the ingredients.
For more information
Learn more about label reading at the Celiac Sprue Association.