- What is Gluten? Gluten is a general term for a group of proteins found in grains such as wheat, rye, bran, durum, farro, and barley. Gluten helps give baked goods their doughy, elastic structure. Many foods use gluten as a thickening agent or flavor enhancer.
- What is a Wheat Allergy? Most people connect a wheat allergy to gluten sensitivity or to non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Having a wheat allergy is not the same as having non-celiac gluten sensitivity. People with a wheat allergy have an abnormal immune system response to at least one of the proteins that exist in wheat. Exposure to wheat can lead to breathing difficulties, nausea, hives, a bloated stomach, and an inability to focus. In some people, anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic response, can occur. Those with wheat allergies can still eat food with gluten as long as it does not contain wheat.
- What happens when you have Celiac Disease (CD)? When gluten is consumed by someone who has Celiac Disease, the immune system triggers an attack on the intestines. The villi (small projections of tissue in the intestines that contain specialized cells used to transport substances into the bloodstream) of the intestines become damaged. This causes the body to be unable to absorb nutrients into the bloodstream, which leads to malnourishment and other serious chronic conditions.
- Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS): People with NCGS may experience similar symptoms as those with Celiacs, however, their antibodies to gluten are not produced and there is no intestinal damage. People with NCGS are sensitive to gluten and also can’t eat wheat because it contains gluten.
Safe Grains and Grains That You Should Avoid
If you have Celiacs or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, you want to avoid or prevent cross-contact with foods that have gluten. Here are some steps to help you prevent cross-contact with gluten:
- When shopping, always read the labels and ingredients. Most products that are gluten-free will be marked with a GF or Gluten-free label. Always check because ingredients can change without warning. You can also save yourself some time by looking up some recipes, creating a shopping list, and doing some research at home prior to shopping.
- When traveling, search for hotels and restaurants in advance and prep meals. You want a hotel with a mini fridge for your food in case there aren’t gluten-free options in the area. *Invest in a portable personal cooler to prevent cross-contamination.
- When eating out, do some research and look up reviews of the restaurant. Check their menu, read ingredients online, or ask about the ingredients when ordering. Let the staff know that you have CD or are NCGS, and make sure they change their gloves for you (to avoid cross-contamination).
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Remember to stay positive!
Join some groups that focus on gluten-free recipes and living. Reach out and make some new friends. Living gluten-free isn’t a culinary death sentence. Use it to expand your culinary horizons and be creative with your food!
If you know someone that needs to see this post about Wheat, Gluten, and Celiacs Disease, please share it with them ASAP! Many people don’t know the differences between Wheat, Gluten, and Celiacs Disease and just assume that they are allergic to gluten. This could help someone you know learn the differences between Wheat, Gluten, and Celiacs Disease.
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