What Does Gluten-Free Actually Mean?!

Gluten is a protein found in wheat plants and other grains. It helps foods preserve their shape by serving as a binder that holds them together. It can be added to food for flavor, extracted, or replaced with alternatives to create gluten-free foods.

Gluten can offer benefits but also cause unpleasant side effects for some, which is why gluten-free diets exist.

Gluten-free diets are becoming more popular because many people are embracing this lifestyle. According to Statista, gluten-free consumers in the US comprise 14 percent of millennials and 13 percent of Generation Z. For this reason, the gluten-free food market is poised to grow to 14 billion USD by 2032.

Despite its popularity, some people may find gluten-free confusing. If you’re in a similar position, this article will tell you what gluten-free exactly means.

What does gluten-free mean?

“Gluten-free” is a label used by food manufacturers to make consumers aware that certain foods contain no gluten. In 2013, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defined this term based on the regulations necessary for them to meet. This label helps people with gluten intolerance know what foods to include and avoid in their gluten-free diet.

A gluten-free diet means not eating foods that contain gluten. It focuses on eating fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, and processed gluten-free foods. If you’re planning to follow this diet, you must consider several things. These include food options, their ingredients, and dietary components.

Gluten-free diets are popular among people with diseases linked to gluten intolerance because they may help ease their symptoms. Gluten-free foods can also change your body’s nutritional intake. 

Diseases That Require a Gluten-Free Diet

Gluten-intolerant diseases can bring you bothersome symptoms that affect your daily life. If you have a gluten-intolerant disorder, it may help to understand how it impacts your body. Moreover, you’ll be able to learn how to incorporate gluten-free foods into your diet safely.

Below are the following gluten-sensitive conditions that may require a gluten-free diet:

Celiac disease

Celiac disease (also known as gluten-sensitive enteropathy) is a disorder that can affect your small intestines. It may damage your small intestines by causing swelling in their lining, resulting in digestive issues like bloating and stomach pain. 

This condition can be mainly triggered by gluten consumption. If you have this, you may experience these other symptoms: anemia, muscle cramps, and nerve damage. Sometimes, it may even be asymptomatic. 

Pay attention if you’re symptomless because celiac disease can be hereditary, which may increase your risk. People whose parents or siblings with this condition may have a 10 percent risk of developing the same disease.

Food and wheat allergies

Like many allergies, food allergy can signal your immune system that there’s something wrong. It can also be true for wheat allergy. Wheat allergy may produce common symptoms like skin rash, digestive issues, headaches, and clogged nose. It can happen when you’re allergic to bread, pasta, and non-food products with wheat-based ingredients.

Gluten can be found in wheat, but it doesn’t mean you can be allergic to it. Wheat may have other components that can trigger the allergy. Nonetheless, people with gluten intolerance may only be told to avoid wheat to prevent it from causing more unpleasant symptoms.

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS)

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is caused by eating gluten-containing foods. NCGS can be diagnosed when necessary medical tests are negative for celiac disease and wheat allergy.

NCGS is a complex condition. Despite many research efforts, some aspects of it remain unknown. While it is acknowledged as a gluten-intolerant disease, concerns about whether other food components could cause it is still debated.

People with NCGS may not restrict their gluten consumption much. If you have this, it means that you can eat foods with gluten but with caution. However, a gluten-free diet may still be the best option if you don’t want to trigger your symptoms.

How To Start a Gluten-Free Diet

You may be encouraged to avoid gluten when you have a gluten-intolerant disease. It can be overwhelming, especially when you’ve just been diagnosed. A gluten-free diet can help minimize your symptoms and improve your overall health.

Here are tips to help you start your gluten-free diet.

Be aware of what foods to include and avoid

While following a gluten-free diet means avoiding specific foods, you must also know what foods are safe. You don’t have to stress yourself thinking about foods to avoid all the time. There are healthy and delicious organic, gluten-free foods that you can enjoy. It’s a matter of doing your research that can help provide proper knowledge.  

Although some foods must be avoided, most may have gluten-free options. For example, you can have gluten-free bread, cakes, and pasta. If you’re looking to cook at home, you can follow easy gluten-free recipes available online.

There are fruits and vegetables you can use as alternatives to gluten-rich ingredients. These include avocados, bananas, mushrooms, and carrots. Aside from being great for the skin, using these food items will ensure that you’re ingesting gluten-free dishes.

Take time to read food labels

A successful gluten-free diet requires you to read processed gluten-free food labels carefully. It includes ensuring that the packages say “gluten-free” with other nutritional ingredients. Ingredients are essential because a healthy diet isn’t just about avoiding gluten. It also emphasizes the need for necessary nutrients to keep your immune system on track.

You can see whether a product is certified by Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO). Products that contain this label are safe to eat for gluten-free consumers. 

Note that some products may be “gluten-free” but don’t have the GFCO label. Don’t worry because they are considered safe if regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). FDA gluten-free labeling can also be like the GFCO ones.

Prevent gluten cross-contact

Gluten cross-contact is likely to happen when you’re not careful enough. It can occur in various places such as stores, restaurants, and your kitchen–anywhere where foods are prepared and served.

In preparing gluten-free foods, prevent cross-contact by cleaning surfaces and items used with gluten-containing products. You must clean them thoroughly to avoid risking your gluten-free diet.

Consult Your Doctor If You’re Going Gluten-Free

Gluten-free diets may help ease your gluten sensitivity. Understanding how gluten-free diets work can make them safe and nutritious for your health. Still, if you’re going gluten-free, it’s best to seek your doctor’s advice. They will be able to help you create an effective gluten-free eating plan.

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