“Gluten”berg – What do you know about gluten?

Today's topic is probably easy to figure out - not only am I passionate about educating others about gluten sensitivity, but it also has been a good ring with my last name - just call me Deb "Gluten"berg.

Many of you are aware that gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Individuals that have celiac sprue have a severe allergy to gluten. Think back to the 1970’s. Remember those shag carpets? Well, our small intestines have finger-like projections on it called villi. When we eat, these projections catch the food particles and help absorb its nutrients. 
However, individuals with celiac disease have a smoother small intestine (similar to plush carpets) which makes it more difficult for food absorption. This puts them at increased risk for serious complications and diseases later in life because they can’t absorb needed nutrients. The only cure for celiac disease is to adhere to a strict gluten free diet. 

With the rise of celiac disease, or perhaps better stated, with the knowledge of more celiac disease cases, came also the increase of gluten-free diets. Many people follow gluten-free diets for a variety of reasons. I have gluten sensitivity and experience gastrointestinal distress when I consume gluten. Perhaps this describes you too. Others have informed me that they get swollen joints, mouth sores or feel bloated when they consume it. Now all this aside; I do not advocate that everyone needs a gluten-free diet. Why you may ask? Well, gluten free isn’t necessarily a healthier diet. You may have noticed that you can purchase gluten-free brownies and gluten-free crackers, chips and the list is endless. This doesn’t mean they are healthier or that a person will lose weight going gluten-free. What it does mean, is oftentimes, you will pay more for your groceries because these items can get pricy.

If you want to go gluten free, my advice is to do it naturally. I am not a perfect eater; nor do I expect that of you. However, rather than buying gluten-free boxed items or worrying wheather or not you should eat gluten-free choose items that are naturally gluten-free but also wholesome foods. Here is a list to choose from:

• Sweet potatoes
• Wild rice
• Quinoa
• Oatmeal (if very sensitive to gluten; may need to purchase gluten-free oatmeal)
• Amaranth
• Nuts
• Seeds
• Nut butters
• Fruits and vegetables
• Legumes
• Beans
• Chicken
• Turkey
• Salmon
• Tuna
• And more!

Homemade is always the way to go and you can exchange white flours to a gluten-free flour of your choice, if you wish. Don’t pay extra to eat gluten-free if you don’t have a health condition that warrants it. Instead, get the full value for your buck by choosing natural “good for you” foods.

About the Author

Deb is a registered dietitian for Prevea Health’s LeadWell corporate health and wellness program, a role that allows her to share her commitment to healthful living. She graduated with her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point and completed her dietetic internship with Harper Hospital in Detroit. After graduation, Deb worked for area nursing homes until she joined HSHS St. Mary’s Hospital Medical Center in 1999. Her understanding of the importance of good nutrition started when she was very young as she tried to help her father with his medical conditions. Her passion for wellness and nutrition continues as she helps people incorporate lifestyle changes into their everyday lives.