Considering A Gluten-Free Diet?

Hi all! Today we have a special guest blog post from Lisa Ronco a certified Dietitian, Nutritionist and personal trainer from New York City- with whom we have been building a relationship. It is Celiac Awareness Month, so Lisa’s first guest post with us describes what to think about when you or your family member is considering a gluten free diet. Take it away Lisa!

 

Considering a gluten-free diet?
By: Lisa Ronco RD, CDN, CDE, MS

“I’m gluten free” I hear this new and trendy catchphrase almost daily. Adhering to a gluten free diet is crucial to people diagnosed with celiac disease. Almost two million Americans may be living with Celiac disease, but only ~300,000 have been diagnosed with the disease. These folks cannot tolerate even small amounts of gluten protein, a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. Eating a gluten free diet is imperative to alleviate symptoms and allow the stomach lining to heal.

Celiac disease is a condition that causes the immune system to attack the lining of the small intestine. Blood tests and a biopsy revealing this damage is how celiac disease is diagnosed. It’s triggered by gluten that causes intestinal damage resulting in gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, headache, difficulty concentrating, and fatigue, but possibly weight loss and malnutrition (due to an inability to optimally absorb vitamins and minerals).

Still others may not have Celiac disease, but have a condition called non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Symptoms are similar without the intestinal damage. Though it is unclear why this happens, we do know gluten and related proteins in grains can cause similar symptoms including: gas, bloating, and indigestion.

Today, many people who have not been diagnosed with celiac disease are following a gluten-free diet for similar reasons: they just feel better.

Diagnosis

A blood test looks for the presence of antibodies that attack the small intestine. If the result is positive, a biopsy must be done to determine if there’s any damage to the lining of the small intestine.

Treatment: Life long Gluten Free Diet

Because those living with celiac disease are extremely sensitive to gluten, the only fix for the condition is a lifelong avoidance of gluten. Avoidance, allows the lining of the small intestine to heal and symptoms to decrease.

Eliminating gluten is more than just a matter of buying gluten-free products. Compliance with a gluten free diet requires one to become a gluten detective, pouring over food labels, looking for sources of hidden gluten. Gluten is everywhere and often hidden in products ranging from soy sauces (note: not all soy sauce contains gluten) to frozen vegetables to medication fillers.

As with any restrictive diet there are a few risks for nutrient deficiencies. Cutting out gluten containing foods means a reduction in fiber intake from whole grains, which are usually enriched & fortified with several vitamins and minerals including: iron, calcium and B vitamins. Risk for vitamin and mineral deficiencies is not limited to those on a gluten free diet, but for all of us who do not eat a well balanced diet daily. And who can in this day and age! Eating a complete and balanced diet is often a struggle with the demands of work and family life. To prevent nutrient deficiencies, it important to know that the gluten free foods you choose, are not from refined gluten free flour. Read the label!!

I often have the opportunity to try samples of many different foods at nutrition and food industry conferences. It was at one of these large conferences that I first encountered Bakery On Main and their wonderful granolas and snack bars. Of course one of the first things I always do as a dietitian is read the label before I even take a bite. A little selective about what I choose to sample. Well I must say that even though I do not follow a gluten free diet, I have made several of Bakery On Main goodies part of my weekly meal plan. I definitely try to practice what I preach and absolutely feel confident recommending their products to my patients.

Tips for success

For people who must follow a gluten free diet or those who choose to follow a gluten free diet planning is imperative to assure optimal nutrient intake.

Following a well balanced diet rich in a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins ensures you are getting optimal nutrition and energy to face all of life’s challenges.

Eat up, and be sure to add Bakery On Main to your shopping list!