What does it mean to “go gluten-free”?
What is gluten? Gluten is a composite protein that is found in grain, wheat, rye, and barley. It is also the main ingredient in many cosmetic products. When used as a food additive, gluten gives elasticity to dough and helps it retain its shape until the product is sold to a consumer. Gluten is also responsible for giving many foods a chewy texture. Food manufacturers also add gluten to low-protein foods to increase nutritional value. Unfortunately, many people can’t digest gluten without becoming ill. This comes in varying degrees of severity ranging from gluten intolerance to celiac disease. Sometimes people suffer from chronic conditions for a long time before figuring out that gluten is the cause of their discomfort.
According to the Mayo Clinic, certain conditions are caused or exacerbated by the consumption of gluten and the body’s immune reaction:
- Abdominal pain
- Frequent illnesses such as colds and flu
- Headaches and migraines
- Joint pain
- Low bone density
- Mental fogginess
- Muscle aches
This is only a shortlist of ailments related to gluten. It can affect any area of the body, including your mind, digestive system, reproductive organs, respiratory system, and skin. If these conditions sound familiar to you, perhaps consider giving a gluten-free diet a try.
How to Get Started
Eating gluten-free may seem completely overwhelming at first. Try to remain positive and remember that any change you make is likely to benefit your health. Start by buying vegetables, plain meats, fish, poultry, nuts, rice, and fruit and work them into your everyday diet. Be sure to check the labels on your foods, or better yet, purchase your food from companies known for their gluten-free products.
When you eat out, ask the server if the restaurant has a gluten-free menu. As awareness of the risks of gluten grows, more restaurants are offering separate gluten-free menus, or at least will denote menu items that are gluten-free. Also, be sure to seek support from others who understand and support your desire for a gluten-free lifestyle.
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