Melissa Abs, founder and head nutritionist of Bites of Delight, joined our Wellness Wednesday on Instagram Live on March 10th, 2020 to discuss the topic: “How To Go Gluten-free”.
All the questions regarding gluten asked during the Live session are answered below. Let’s have a look!
Q: What is ‘gluten’?
A: Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.
Q: Is gluten bad for you? Who should go gluten-free? And why?
A: Gluten is only bad for people who suffer from gluten-related disorders like gluten intolerance or celiac disease. For these groups of individuals, gluten triggers a series of symptoms ranging from gastrointestinal discomfort to cutaneous problems, joint pain, and fatigue.
Q: What is celiac disease? And how is celiac disease different than intolerance or allergies?
A: Celiac Disease (CD) is an autoimmune disorder. That means that the immunity system mistakenly considers your own body as the enemy and releases antibodies to attack it which leads to a state of inflammation. In CD patients, ingesting gluten causes damage to their small intestine leading to an inability to absorb nutrients. CD can be confirmed by a blood test and biopsy. CD symptoms are usually more severe than those of gluten intolerance with more extreme consequences if a strict gluten-free diet was not followed.
Gluten sensitivity or intolerance; however, is less well-defined which led to scientists referring to the condition as “non-celiac gluten sensitivity”. The patient suffers from similar symptoms as CD yet lacks the positive blood test and the intestinal damage as seen in CD. A proper elimination diet is the most effective way to diagnose these individuals.
Q: Why does gluten cause inflammation in the body?
A: Gluten can cause inflammation in the body of people who suffer from gluten-related disorders for two main reasons:
- It leads to dysbiosis: it reduces the amount of beneficial bacteria in the gut like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria and increases the amount of pro-inflammatory bacteria. This shift leads to an imbalance in the microbial intestinal population composition.
- Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder. Your immunity system mistakenly considers your own body as the enemy and releases antibodies to attack it which leads to a state of inflammation.
Q: Where is gluten found?
A: Other than cakes, pastas, and cereals, gluten can also be found in hidden foods like:
- Sauces, salad dressings, and soups
- Frozen potato fries and chips
- Soy sauce (liquid aminos can be used instead)
- Cold cuts (like turkey)
- Candy and chocolate bars
Q: With what can I substitute wheat in my food?
A: The following grains or flours are safe to substitute wheat with:
- Non-GMO corn
- Certified “gluten-free” oats (Although some CD patients might react so proceed with caution).
- Coconut flour
- Potato flour
Q: Is alcohol safe for a gluten-free lifestyle?
A: Not all types of alcohol are safe! Beer is made with wheat which is filled with gluten. These drinks are safe though:
- Distilled liquors like whiskey, scotch, rum, gin (except for flavored ones and ouzo).
Q: Is a product that is gluten-free necessarily healthy?
A: Of course not! Most of the time, a gluten-free product will have more sugar, more fat, and more additives than non-gluten-free products. That’s why it’s vital to read the list of ingredients and nutrition facts to be able to make an informed decision and choose a product based on whether or not it’s healthy rather than it only being gluten-free.
Q: How can you tell when a gluten-free product is healthy or full of processed ingredients?
A: If you want to go on a gluten-free diet, here are some guidelines on how to check for healthy products and avoid the processed ones:
- Check the type and quantity of sugar used.
- Check the type and quantity of fat used.
- Check whether the list of ingredients includes terms like “hydrolyzed”, “textured”, “flavoring”.
- Avoid products that contain MSG (Monosodium glutamate).
- Avoid products with many numbers in their list of ingredients, for example: E129.
Q: How do we know if a product has gluten or not? What are some tips for reading ingredients?
A: Here are some tips to help you read the ingredients and identify which products contain gluten:
- Avoid any product with wheat, barley, rye, and malt. The only exception is buckwheat as it’s not related to wheat and is gluten-free.
- Look for the words “gluten-free” on the package.
- Avoid naturally gluten-free products but “gluten” is mentioned in the “may contain” section.
- If you’re not 100% sure, always contact the manufacturer to inquire about possible risks of cross-contamination in the factory.
And when in doubt, go without.
Q: For anyone with celiac disease or an allergy, why is it important to be mindful of cross-contamination? What does it mean to have a gluten-free facility?
A: Cross-contamination is what makes the life of a person with a gluten-related disorder even more challenging. Cross-contamination can occur at the factory, the restaurant, or in the patient’s own kitchen. It can occur when foods are prepared on common surfaces or with utensils previously used to make gluten-containing foods. Also, not so fun fact: did you know that gluten particles can stay in the air for approximately 24 hours? This makes it almost impossible to make gluten-free and gluten-containing products in the same factory without the risk of cross-contamination.
That’s all folks! Thank you for joining us for this session and thank you for Melissa Abs for this valuable information. Stay tuned for more Wellness Wednesdays to come
If you have any questions or topic suggestions, feel free to reach out to the Mint Basil Market team.