Having a gluten intolerance seems so prevalent in today’s society, you may wonder how bread has been a staple in the food system for thousands of years. It’s almost as if “gluten-free” is the trendy thing to do. Some people truly have a gluten intolerance (aka “non-celiac gluten sensitivity”). A gluten intolerance test can tell you if you do. Some people may have celiac disease, which can lead to major health issues early on or later in life. Your doctor will be able to determine if you have celiac disease or not.
If you experience abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, gas, or other discomfort after eating gluten-containing foods, you may have a gluten intolerance. Other symptoms of a gluten intolerance include diarrhea, constipation, brain fog, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, and skin problems. Some of these symptoms may seem ambiguous, but the real thing to focus on is if your symptoms change when you add or subtract gluten from your diet.
What foods contain gluten?
Gluten is a combination of two proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye. Some people can consume small amounts of gluten daily, whereas others experience severe symptoms from cross-contamination. Regardless of the severity of your gluten intolerance, everyone should know the obvious and not-so-obvious gluten-containing foods. Here is a list of products that contain gluten:
- Wheat (includes bread, pasta, tortilla, crackers)
- Other grains: durum wheat, semolina, farro, spelt, wheat starch, graham
- Malt (flour, syrup, flavoring, vinegar)
- Brewer’s Yeast
- Crackers, croutons
- Pastries, cookies, pies, cake
- Cereal, granola
- Biscuits, pancakes, flour tortillas
- Beer, lager, ale, malts
- Possible hidden gluten: granola bars, chips, fries, candy, soup, sauces, seitan (meat substitute)
While wheat is one of the top 8 allergens and must be identified on the product label, there is a difference between “wheat-free” and “gluten-free.” Remember: There are other grains besides wheat that contain gluten.
What should I do if I have a gluten intolerance?
As with other food intolerances, the best way to treat a gluten intolerance is to avoid foods that contain gluten. We’ve complied some tips and things to consider to avoid gluten.
- Look for “Gluten-Free” labels: These can help you easily spot gluten-free items. It is also important to remember which foods contain gluten so that you can avoid them even if they do not contain the “gluten-free” label.
- Take caution with gluten cross-contamination: If you get severe symptoms with gluten or you experience symptoms with small amounts of gluten, this is important for you. Gluten cross-contamination occurs when the same utensils, appliances, and surfaces are used with gluten and non-gluten foods. Sometimes even a dusting of gluten-food can cause someone distress. Here are common sources of gluten cross-contamination:
- Cutting boards
- Airborne wheat flour
- Oats (look for gluten-free on the label)
- Prep counters
- Fried foods and fryers
- Ask questions when out at restaurants: Be an advocate for yourself by asking the proper questions about what a particular plate contains. While many restaurants cannot guarantee a completely gluten-free environment, you may be able to take out certain items that potentially contain gluten.
- Learn which foods are naturally gluten-free: There are many naturally gluten-free foods than can be used to replace many of the grains listed above. Potatoes, corn, and rice are gluten-free alternatives. You could also experiment with things like almond flour, potato starch, rice flour, and others.
The most important step to managing your gluten intolerance is to confirm that you indeed have a gluten intolerance. Inaccurately self-diagnosing a food intolerance can make you fear and miss out on a variety of foods! Always consult your doctor or Registered Dietitian for more personalized nutrition care.