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Eating Gluten-Free
Yaselin Solis
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For about a year, every time I ate pizza, beef patties, mac and cheese, or cold cuts, I would get nausea and a burning sensation in my stomach. Sometimes I would feel dizzy, unsteady, fatigued, and have diarrhea as well as mood swings.

I finally went to the doctor. She drew my blood, took a urine sample, gave me an allergy skin test, and a week later told me, “You have celiac disease and a gluten allergy.”

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The doctor explained, “Gluten is what makes food stick together.” I was still confused. She then said, “Yaselin, being allergic to gluten means you shouldn’t eat bread, wheat, rye, barley, and oats.”

I looked on the Internet to find out more about gluten and how people deal with an allergy to it.

Educating Myself

I went to the websites WebMD, About.com, and celiac.com to research my new allergy. I also interviewed Christy Harrison, a nutritionist and journalist who has written about gluten-free diets and has gone gluten-free herself. Harrison explained that gluten is a protein that helps food bind together and that’s one reason it gets added to some food. I learned that all these ingredients have gluten in them.

Gelatinized starch
Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
Natural flavoring
Starch, modified starch, modified food starch
Vegetable gum or starch
Anything with the word “malt” (malt comes from barley)

This means that if you are allergic to gluten and you pick up an item from the deli and you see any of those things listed on the label, put it down!

These foods have gluten from wheat (though gluten-free alternatives exist):

Bread
Beer and ale
Baking mixes
Baked goods, including cookies, cakes, and crackers
Breaded and batter-fried foods
Cereals
Ice cream
Salad dressing – check label
Pasta
Most sauces and soups (check label)
Soy sauce

Disease or Sensitivity

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Celiac disease is when your immune system attacks your small intestine after you eat something with gluten in it. This attack makes the body unable to absorb nutrients into the bloodstream, which can lead to malnourishment. Symptoms of celiac disease include:

Diarrhea and/or constipation
Abdominal pain and/or heartburn
Bloating
Fatigue
Anemia
Joint pain
Rashes
Depression and/or anxiety

I recognized this list—I’ve experienced most of these.

Celiac disease is not very common—it affects about one in every 133 Americans. But many more people, especially in the last few years, say they have experienced similar symptoms when they eat gluten. This is usually called “gluten intolerance” or “gluten sensitivity.”

Unlike with celiac disease, there’s no medical test for gluten sensitivity. But many people have found that when they cut out foods with gluten from their diets, they feel better. (That’s what happened in Christy Harrison’s case.)

I asked Harrison why this condition has popped up all of a sudden and she said that nobody really knows. One theory is that people eat more processed food than we used to, so we eat more gluten.

Gluten-Free on a Budget

I asked Harrison how she went gluten-free. She said she replaced her all-purpose flour with gluten-free flour and her regular pasta with pasta made out of corn and tapioca flour. Gluten is what makes bread dough stick together; gluten-free things that help dough stick together are garbanzo bean flour, tapioca flour, xanthan gum, and guar gum.

Harrison said, “The healthiest and the most affordable way is to cook at home from scratch using potatoes, rice, and corn.” She said yucca and other root vegetables like radishes, turnips, sweet potatoes, and yams are cheap and gluten-free, along with black beans and red beans. All vegetables, eggs, and cheese are naturally gluten-free, but, she added, “read the label on the cheese because sometimes there are gluten additives.”

For seasonings, she suggested wheat-free soy sauce, like tamari. Instead of bullion, she said to make or buy chicken stock, beef stock, or vegetable stock. She suggested calling the manufacturer of things you like to find out if it’s gluten free and to look on the Internet for websites where gluten-intolerant people talk to each other.

Even if it turns out you don’t have celiac disease, going gluten-free can be helpful if it means you eat more real food (like fruits, vegetables, beans, and eggs) and less processed food.

(FCYU-2015-01-21)