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What You Need to Know About Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Disease

It's pretty, but if you have celiac disease, wheat is best to keep off your plate in all amounts. Credit: Jams_123

It’s pretty, but if you have celiac disease, wheat is best to keep off your plate. Credit: Jams_123

There’s a lot of fuss about celiac disease and gluten intolerance these days (including from us!), so we thought we’d chat up Keri GlassmanKonsyl spokesperson and celebrity nutritionist, to help break down what everyone needs to know about the gluten-free lifestyle. A few months ago, she shared the facts on fiber with us, and we’re excited to have her back today for this special guest post!

Why Everyone Is Talking About Gluten

Celebs, Emmy Rossum, Jennifer Esposito, and Elisabeth Hasselbeck all have something in common besides gracing the pages of our favorite magazines: they are amongst the 1 in every 133 people in the United States who have celiac disease. The difference between these leading ladies versus many other Americans is that they have been tested and diagnosed and have embraced a gluten-free lifestyle. Many Americans have a gluten intolerance or celiac disease and don’t even realize it! (Ever felt bloated and crampy after eating a slice of pizza?) That’s why I’m helping you get celiac-savvy! Learn the ins and outs of what it means to have celiac disease, how to appropriately adjust your lifestyle, and how to eat gluten-free without feeling deprived.

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is a chronic, genetic, autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks itself in response to gluten, damaging the small intestine and causing systemic problems. While there is no cure for celiac disease, you can prevent the symptoms. By following a diet free of gluten, further damage to the small intestine can be avoided. So what exactly does a gluten-free diet entail? Gluten is a protein that is naturally found in certain grains such as wheat, barley and rye. Some of the more obvious gluten-containing foods are our all-time faves: think pizza, pasta and breads. But just because a food may not resemble pizza or pasta, does not mean it’s free of gluten. Many foods have gluten “hidden” in them (hot dogs, chips, salad dressing…). To follow a gluten-free diet, you want to eliminate anything with any trace of gluten in it. Sound daunting? Yes, the list of foods and products that contain gluten is almost endless, but there are plenty of foods that don’t contain it — many of which are quite healthy (and tasty). But before we talk about how you can avoid this “g” word altogether, make sure that you need to.

Do I Have Celiac Disease?

Symptoms of celiac disease can vary from person to person, but the most common ones are diarrhea, constipation and bloating. To a person with celiac disease, even the smallest amount of gluten is problematic. On the other hand, a gluten intolerance is hard to diagnose because the symptoms are similar to many other conditions (stomach bug, PMS, food poisoning…). Even worse, it can express itself in subtle ways, such as mouth sores, muscle cramps or irritability. Like other sensitivities, some degree of gluten may be okay, but eating too much of it puts you in a dangerous territory. The best way to find out is to consult your doctor. And if you do suffer from celiac disease, there’s nothing to fret about! There are plenty of delicious, healthy foods you can eat along with many simple ways to make the switch to a gluten-free lifestyle.

5 Tips for Going Gluten-Free

1. Become a label-reader. As mentioned, you’d be surprised how many products contain gluten, and I’m not talking only foods. Some beauty (lotions, moisturizers, lip products such as lipsticks and lip glosses — anything that can be ingested) products contain traces of gluten, so to avoid the potential blunder, it is best to flip the package over and get reading! Consumers should look for key words on labels such as barley, rye, triticale, wheat and malt. Look for labels that have a complete list of ingredients to be the safest. Manufacturers constantly change labels, so always read labels even on products you trust or feel free to call the company directly.
2. Focus on whole foods. If you’re not one to read labels, you can avoid the problem altogether by sticking to foods that don’t come in bags and boxes, also known as fruits, veggies, lean proteins and gluten-free whole grains. Just because wheat is out of the question, doesn’t mean that whole grains go out the door with it. Quinoa, millet and brown rice are all perfectly acceptable for anyone with celiac disease and make a nutritious addition to any meal.
3. Gluten-free doesn’t mean flavor-free. The secret ingredient in many sauces (soy sauce — read the label carefully for key words such as wheat, barley, rye and malt) and salad dressings is often gluten. Surprise! But skimping on these toppers doesn’t mean flavor-bust! There are plenty of gluten-free options out there: Newman’s Own salad dressings, La Choy soy sauce, OrganicVille makes certified gluten-free salad dressings, condiments, and pizza and pasta sauces. In the mood for some Asian flare? Try Bragg liquid amino acids as an alternative to soy sauce. You will never be able to tell the difference!
4. Get those nutrients in. Some individuals find that eliminating gluten from their diet means difficulty getting in their daily dose of fiber. But this doesn’t have to be the case! Many fruits and vegetables contain plenty of fiber, but if you still find yourself falling short, you can try an all-natural, gluten-free psyllium fiber supplement like Konsyl Original Formula. It makes a great addition to a morning smoothie or salad-topper.
5. Ask away. Just because you may be gluten-free now does not mean you should be afraid to go to your favorite restaurant for dinner. Many restaurants are jumping on the bandwagon and are offering gluten-free menu choices. And, don’t be afraid to ask your waiter/waitress what your options are and how each meal is prepared.
Keep in mind: Just because something is labeled gluten-free, doesn’t always mean it’s healthier or even healthy at all. Those gluten-free cookies right there next to the Oreo’s are no better for you and will not aid in weight-loss (sorry!). While it is an excellent idea to find gluten-free alternatives to some of your favorite snacks, if you considered the regular version to be an indulgence, then chances are the gluten-free version will be as well. Whether you’re gluten-free or not, the same rules still apply to everyone at the end of the day: the healthiest diets are those that consist of real, whole foods with the occasional indulgence.
A big thanks to Keri for the tips! Tell us, do you or anyone you know have celiac disease or have a gluten intolerance? —Jenn

FTC disclosure: We often receive products from companies to review. All thoughts and opinions are always entirely our own. Unless otherwise stated, we have received no compensation for our review and the content is purely editorial. Affiliate links may be included. If you purchase something through one of those links we may receive a small commission. Thanks for your support!