Living Gluten Free

By Heather Legg

Whether it is due to a gluten allergy or to celiac disease, being gluten free is not easy, though it may be necessary for your health. Though both gluten allergy and celiac disease may have similar symptoms, celiac disease involves damage to the small intestine which in turn leads to a variety of other health problems.

With a gluten allergy, though anaphylaxis and the “regular” allergy symptoms may not be prevalent, there are a number of other symptoms that arise. These symptoms range from abdominal pain to ADHD and from constant fatigue to infertility. They also can include indigestion, constipation, canker sores, anxiety, headaches and joint pain.

Celiac disease is a hereditary allergy to gluten that results in damage to the small intestine. It can affect different people with greatly varying symptoms and can strike at any age. Because it is caused by damage to the small intestine, because of gluten “attacking” it, it can take years to diagnose. Basically the villi of the intestine are broken off, therefore, people can no longer absorb important nutrients and gastrointestinal and other symptoms arise.

Whether it is celiac disease or an allergy, it is best to avoid gluten altogether. The good news is that with celiac disease, a gluten free diet can lead to repair of the intestine and an end to the symptoms. You must remain gluten free, however, to maintain a healthy status. But being gluten free is not easy. It’s in so many food products from beer to soy sauce to everything with wheat, rye or barley in it.

Grocery stores and restaurants are beginning to become aware and accommodating to those in need of gluten free food. Places like Outback Steakhouse and P.F. Chang’s have gluten-free menu items and stores like Whole Foods are carrying products like Enjoy Life’s cookies and granola. More and more trendy restaurants are including gluten free items on their menus or even having gluten free special dining opportunities. Atlanta’s Four Season Hotel provides a lavish gluten free high tea.

You can look at many restaurants websites to find gluten information. Gluten Free Celiac Web lists a large number of restaurants and their information, or you can go to individual sites like Chick-fil-a or Wendy’s for gluten information.

Gluten free living is a huge challenge, but for those who need it, it’s worth it. There are a lot of good support systems out there, both online and within your community. You can usually find them online and go form there. If you believe you may have either celiac disease or a gluten allergy, look into it; diagnosis may be the beginning of feeling much better.

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