A Quick Guide to Gluten-Free Products and Celiac Disease

Breve guida ai cibi senza glutine

Do you suspect gluten is the cause of your health issues? Do you suffer from symptoms like weight gain, lethargy, and gastrointestinal problems and think gluten may be the problem? Maybe you think you might even have Celiac Disease?

If you’ve been bothered by health issues and believe gluten could be their source, read on to find out how you can benefit from my quick guide to gluten-free eating. I’ll tell you a bit about gluten-related health conditions like Celiac disease. I’ll also explain the foods you should avoid if you need to go gluten-free and the foods you can eat. I’ll tell you how we can work together to get you through any gluten challenges you may be living with.

Let’s start by talking a bit about what gluten is, and then we’ll discuss ways to live a happy life if you need to stay away from it.

What is Gluten?

We see so many products on the market today that are labeled gluten-free. But is gluten anyway? Do you know why you might want to avoid it when it comes to your food?

Gluten is recently getting a lot of attention as a possible source of many health problems. Still, only 1% of the worldwide population is affected by gluten in a way that can be life-threatening. Meaning 1% of people in the world have Celiac Disease. This condition affects individuals genetically predisposed to an autoimmune disease caused by an abnormal immune reaction to gluten, a protein found in some grains.

If you’ve noticed symptoms that seem to come about when you eat glutinous products but you don’t suspect Celiac Disease, you may suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity, which is a condition characterized by an adverse reaction to gluten that can’t be classified as an autoimmune disease (because an inflammatory response is absent).

What is Celiac Disease?

If you have Celiac Disease, multiple organs can be affected. People with Celiac Disease present lists of varied clinical symptoms to doctors, often with dozens of health issues highlighted. Since Celiac Disease can manifest with widely ranging symptoms, we can classify the disease as falling into these three categories:

  • Classic, with symptoms including diarrhea, weight loss, malabsorption, and vitamin deficiency
  • Atypical, with minimal GI symptoms but possible anemia, neurologic symptoms, arthritis, or infertility
  • Asymptomatic, with no symptoms but which is generally identified on incidental screening

Both adults and children can be affected by gluten, and, therefore should consider serologic testing for celiac disease if they suffer from the following: autoimmune hepatitis, type 1 diabetes, Down syndrome, Turner syndrome, Williams syndrome, iron-deficient anemia, and primary biliary cirrhosis. In addition, individuals with at least one first-degree relative affected by celiac disease should undergo testing to see if they’re predisposed to the disease.

A person diagnosed with Celiac Disease has no choice but to avoid gluten for life, if he wants to stay healthy. There is no alternative to well-being, except eating a gluten-free diet.

What Foods Have Gluten?

Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley, and any foods made with these grains. It’s also sometimes found in products processed on the same machinery as these grains. Let’s take a look at some foods containing gluten:

Cereal Grains with Gluten

Wheat, barley, kamut, and spelt are all types of wheat, which means they all contain gluten. They can be processed into white, durum, and wholegrain flours, and into foods like bread, pasta, ravioli, tortellini, crackers, baked foods (cakes, pastries, muffins, cookies, etc.), croutons, packet snacks, rusks, waffles, pancakes, crepes, pizzas, pretzels, flour tortilla, breadsticks and communion wafers.

Semolina, bulgur, and cous cous also contain gluten. Some puddings made with flour will have gluten in them. Often, potatoes and gnocchi (a typical Italian dish) are prepared with wheat flour, and therefore contain gluten. Beer, lager, and ales are forbidden products on a gluten-free diet because they can be both wheat-based and barley-based.

Other products that contain gluten include: wheat germ, wheat bran, triticale, starch, modified starch, hydrolysed starch, food starch, and edible starch. Check for these ingredients on your food product labels.

If you have Celiac Disease, you have to be very careful about what you eat because it’s common practice to use white flour to prepare meat, fish, and some dressings and sauces. When eating out at restaurants, make sure you ask about how menu items are made before ordering. Inquire wether each dish you’re interested in is safe for people with Celiac Disease. Of course, no matter what answer you’re given, you must take your health into your own hands and depend on only yourself to know exactly what’s in your food. That’s where I can help you. I can help you cook and prepare gluten-free meals in your home.

Hidden Sources of Gluten

You may not know it, but the following foods also have gluten in them:

  • Broth in soups
  • Bouillon cubes
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Some candies
  • Fried foods
  • Imitation fish
  • Some lunch meats and hot dogs
  • Malt
  • Matzo
  • Seasoned chips and other seasoned snack foods
  • Salad dressings
  • Self-basting turkey
  • Soy sauce
  • Seasoned rice and pasta mixes

Many packaged foods include additives or preservatives that contain gluten, in addition to actual gluten. Therefore, you must always check food labels thoroughly if you’re buying boxed or bottled foods, and you have Celiac Disease. Sometimes, even processed dairy foods like cheese, yogurt, and whipped cream have gluten in them from food additives.

Ingredients in food products change frequently, so it’s a good idea to check the labels of packaged and processed foods you buy to see if there have been alterations since the last time you purchased them.

As you’re shopping for food, keep in mind that the term “wheat-free” on a label does not mean “gluten-free,” since gluten can be lurking in many other additives and in other grains in the product. If you want to know if a product is completely gluten-free, it’s good practice to contact the product manufacturer in writing and ask.

Foods Without Gluten

Many foods are naturally gluten-free. If you have Celiac Disease, these are the foods you’ll want to keep a lot of in your kitchen and use often in your meals. Again, I can show you how to cook tasty dishes using these gluten-free products:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Potatoes
  • Almond meal flour
  • Homemade almond milk
  • Homemade rice milk
  • Homemade coconut milk
  • Coconut water
  • Coconut meat
  • Coconut flour
  • Pseudograins: Amaranth, Buckwheat, quinoa, etc.
  • Brown, white, and wild rice
  • Corn
  • Corn starch
  • Guar gum
  • Millet
  • Potato flour
  • Sorghum
  • Soy flour
  • Teff
  • Vegetable oils

There are many non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks you can opt for if you need to stay away from gluten, including:

  • Pure fruit juice
  • Naturally-flavored water
  • Cordials
  • Fizzy drinks
  • Cider
  • Wine
  • Sherry
  • Port
  • Some liqueurs
  • Some spirits
  • Gluten-free beers and lagers

Help With Gluten-Free Living

Eating a gluten-free diet can be challenging for those who are just learning about gluten and gluten-related illnesses, such as Celiac Disease. There are so many foods to remember not to eat, and it can be hard to know how to put the good-for-you foods together to make nutritious and healthy meals. This is where a nutritionist and health coach like me comes in.

I specialize in helping people with Celiac Disease, and gluten sensitivities, learn how to live a joyful life (eating great-tasting food) despite their diagnosis. When I meet with my clients, I find they typically fall into two categories, so I am able to guide them with much experience:

One category of my clients eats poorly, and therefore lives unhealthily. Because these clients have to stay away from so much food they turn to unhealthy foods as a last resort, such as meat and dairy products. These individuals have no idea what to eat if they can’t eat the foods they were used to eating. I help them choose foods from our “can eat” list and put them together to make amazing snacks and meals. I teach them how to create dishes that are nutritious, so they can turn their health around for the better.

Other clients of mine come to me because they’ve gained weight actually eating gluten-free foods. They don’t realize that many of the gluten-free foods on the market are not nourishing. These foods don’t have gluten in them, but they also don’t have anything nutritious in them like protein, good carbs, or fiber. These clients have gotten ill and overweight eating junk foods that have no substance, only lots of sugar and stripped down carbohydrates. When looking for gluten-free foods, don’t always believe the marketing hype that says “gluten-free” is good for you.

Every day, I help adults and children take control over their disease, and I show them how to eat in a way that keeps them sustained and healthy. I can do this for you. I can guide you through celiac disease, or your child’s disease, with tips, recipes, and more.

If you want to know more about gluten-free eating, gluten-free foods, and Celiac Disease, fill out my contact form. I offer a free strategy session via Skype where we can talk about how to keep you healthy, even while living a gluten-free lifestyle. Reach out to me today!

Picture of Gianluca Tognon

Gianluca Tognon

Gianluca Tognon is an Italian nutrition coach, speaker, entrepreneur and associate professor at the University of Gothenburg. He started his career as a biologist and spent 15 years working both in Italy and then in Sweden. He has been involved in several EU research projects and has extensively worked and published on the association between diet, longevity and cardiovascular risk across the lifespan, also studying potential interactions between diet and genes. His work about the Mediterranean diet in Sweden has been cited by many newspapers worldwide including the Washington Post and The Telegraph among others. As a speaker, he has been invited by Harvard University and the Italian multi-national food company Barilla.

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