Gluten-free diets are no health fad
by Staff Writer
by Erin Odom
A few years ago, a friend baked me gluten-free muffins.
“I know you are into healthier foods, so I thought you might like these,” she said.
“Gluten?!” I replied, laughing.
Sure, I had cut out most processed foods and was working towards feeding my family more of a whole-foods diet, but at the time, gluten sounded more like a fad to me.
That changed about a month ago.
Now, I’m not saying gluten – a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats – is all bad. Some people just can’t handle it. My 3-year-old daughter is one of them.
After I spent a year with nagging feelings that some of her digestive and behavioral symptoms weren’t quite normal, my little girl’s pediatrician started talking to me about food sensitivities this summer.
“Look at her under-eye circles,” she said. “And the digestion and behavior? Those are tell-tale signs.”
After a month-long elimination diet, a blood test confirmed in September that she is sensitive to egg, gluten, milk, peanuts, soy, oranges, strawberries and tomatoes. She can have some of those foods in moderation, but her pediatrician said we need to take all egg and gluten out of her diet.
Gluten, especially, can cause several discomforts – including digestive ailments, skin issues, headaches and irritability. Continuing to consume gluten can prevent nutrient absorption and open the door to more serious health conditions for people who are intolerant to it.
Eggs and gluten seem to be in everything today, but we are coping. I actually enjoy researching how to make anything and everything egg- and gluten-free.
I’m finding I’m not alone in this.
According to celiac.com, at least 1 in 133 Americans suffer gluten intolerance. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease associated with gluten intolerance. We are not yet sure if my daughter has celiac. A diagnosis would require a colonoscopy, and we aren’t ready to put our 3-year-old through that.
The cure for both celiac and gluten intolerance is to go completely gluten-free.
When I was a kid, I really didn’t hear of anyone having food allergies. There may have been that occasional kid who couldn’t eat peanuts; but they really were few and far between.
I don’t have any known allergies, and my husband is only slightly allergic to tree nuts.
I won’t speculate here where all these allergies are coming from (although I do have my speculations), but I do want to encourage other parents of children with food sensitivities that they are not alone.
There are two new support groups starting in the Lake Norman area for people or parents with either food or gluten sensitivities.
• Dr. Sheila Kilbane, of Touchstone Pediatrics in Cornelius, met with a group of moms last month to discuss food-allergy symptoms and to allow the mothers to share resources, tips and recipes. She is hoping to continue these meetings. Details: 704-655-6300.
• Statesville resident Melissa Friend has formed a Facebook support group called CEGIS (Celiac and Gluten Intolerance Support Group) for anyone with celiac disease or gluten intolerance who lives at Lake Norman area or Iredell County. Melissa is in the process of registering the group as an official GIG (Gluten Intolerance Group), and she would like to start in-person meetings for anyone interested. Details: email@example.com (write “CEGIS” in the subject line).
Is gluten-free for me?
“Eating gluten-free is not meant to be a diet craze,” said Rhonda Kane, a registered dietitian and consumer safety officer at FDA. “It’s a medical necessity for those who have celiac disease.”
“There are no nutritional advantages for a person not sensitive to gluten to be on a gluten-free diet,” she added. “Those who are not sensitive to gluten have more flexibility and can choose from a greater variety of foods to achieve a balanced diet.”
Gluten-free is not synonymous with low fat, low sugar or low sodium. For people who must be on a gluten-free diet, Kane said it’s important to check the ingredients list and Nutrition Facts information on food labels to find the most nutritious options.
Some foods are naturally free of gluten. Here are some examples: 100 percent fruit or vegetable juices; butter; eggs; fresh fish, such as cod; fresh shellfish, such as clams; fresh fruits and vegetables; honey; lentils; milk not flavored with ingredients that contain gluten, such as malt; non-gluten-containing grains, such as corn; peanuts; seeds, such as flax; tree nuts, such as almonds; and water, including bottled, distilled and spring.
– FDA Consumer Health Information