What Does it Mean to Be Gluten Free? | ACV Health

What Does it Mean to Be Gluten Free? Allergy vs. Intolerance

You’ve probably heard what have become buzzwords in the health food industry: “gluten free.” But what does it mean to be gluten free? Why would someone choose a gluten free diet? Here’s everything you need to know.

What is Gluten?

First things first – what are we talking about when we say gluten?

Gluten is a group of proteins found in wheat, barley, rye and their derivatives. It provides elasticity and helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds them together.

In baked goods, gluten gives dough its elasticity, allowing it to rise and create a chewy texture. However, for individuals with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, wheat allergy or other health conditions, consuming gluten can trigger adverse reactions ranging from mild discomfort to severe symptoms.

Gluten is commonly found in a variety of foods, including bread, pasta, cereal, baked goods and processed foods. It can also be present in unexpected sources such as soups, sauces, salad dressings and even certain medications and supplements.

Reasons for a Gluten Free Diet

There are several reasons why someone might be on a gluten free diet, from preference to medical necessity. The most common include:

Celiac Disease: Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can lead to damage in the small intestine. People with celiac disease must strictly avoid gluten to prevent symptoms and long-term complications such as malabsorption, nutrient deficiencies and gastrointestinal issues.

Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity: Non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or wheat sensitivity, is a condition characterized by symptoms similar to those of celiac disease, such as abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea or fatigue.

Wheat Allergy: Some individuals have an allergic reaction to proteins found in wheat, which can cause symptoms including hives, itching, swelling, difficulty breathing or anaphylaxis.

Gluten Intolerance or Digestive Issues: Some people experience digestive issues such as bloating, gas or abdominal discomfort after consuming gluten-containing foods, even if the person does not have celiac disease or a wheat allergy. These individuals may choose to follow a gluten-free diet to alleviate symptoms and improve digestive health.

Other Health Conditions: In some cases, individuals with certain health conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), autoimmune disorders or neurological conditions, may find that avoiding gluten helps manage symptoms and improves overall health.

Personal Preference or Dietary Choice: Finally, some people may choose to follow a gluten-free diet as a personal preference or dietary choice.

Note: This blog is not intended as medical advice. If you are struggling with the symptoms described above, please speak with your doctor. If you are experiencing a medical emergency such as a severe allergic reaction, call 911 immediately.

Gluten FAQ

What foods are naturally gluten free? Naturally gluten free foods include fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds and most grains like rice, quinoa and corn.

How can I know if a product is gluten free? Look for products labeled gluten free. Check the ingredient list for any sources of gluten, and be aware of potential cross-contamination.

Is gluten free food healthier? Not necessarily. While gluten free foods are essential for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, they are not inherently healthier.

Speak with a Doctor About Your Diet

Are you concerned that you might have an intolerance to gluten? The first step is to share your symptoms with your primary care physician. Your doctor can help you find the root cause of your issues and may perform initial testing before referring you to a specialist.

ACV Health, an outreach of Advent Christian Village, is pleased to provide primary care along with on-site lab testing for your convenience. Our services range from primary and specialty care to rehabilitation and an on-site pharmacy, and are available to the public. Schedule an appointment with one of our physicians

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