Going Gluten-Free

Did you know that gluten intolerances have become more prevalent in recent years, and that celiac disease is thought to affect 1 in 33 people? Find out how gluten is affecting us and why.

I don't have celiac and I am not sensitive to gluten. However, following a recent trip to Italy, and a week on non-stop pasta eating, I decided to go gluten-free for a week just to see how I would feel. At the end of the week, I felt like I was less bloated and generally had more energy.

Gluten is the substance in foods (specifically, breads and pastas) that makes them chewy. For some reason, more and more people are becoming sensitive to wheat products and gluten. Scientists have come up with a variety of possible reasons.  Firstly, we are eating too much wheat.  Apparently, Americans are the fourth largest consumers of wheat in the world and consumption has been steadily increasing since the 1950s.  According to the US Department of Agriculture, annual average grain consumption was 45% higher in 2000 than in the 1970s (www.usda.gov/factbook/chapter2.pdf). Secondly, we are eating a smaller variety of grains than our ancestors did.  Finally, we may be reacting to wheat that has been genetically modified or is full of pesticides.

Reactions to gluten can range from mild sensitivities to full-blown celiac disease.  Foods which contain gluten are: any wheat products (including spelt, durum wheat, bulgur and farro), barley, rye and, sometimes, oats. Gluten-free grains are: rice, buckwheat (related to rhubarb and not wheat), quinoa, corn and millet.

After my experiment, I realized that - as with most things in life - moderation is best.  While I do enjoy bread and pasta, I have decided to limit my intake of wheat products to once or twice a week. I feel it's a good way to give my digestive system a break and allows me to experiment cooking with other grains.  That said, I do make sure to stay away from the gluten-free processed foods, sugary snacks and cereals, which seem to have become quite the fad lately.

Rachel Khanna is a Certified Health Counselor. She resides with her husband and four daughters in Greenwich. Visit her website at: http://www.healthytiffin.net

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Margaret Callahan October 05, 2012 at 12:51 PM
fascinating topic. who knew? I want to read more on glutens
Sue Moretti Rogers October 05, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Rachel - great blog! Thank you for bringing this issue to Patch. I think more and more people are realizing that they have a gluten sensitivity - including me. I am not celiac, but I have been gluten (and lactose) free for almost two months. It has made a dramatic difference in how I feel. While it can be very overwhleming, there are many gluten free options and I am finding that restuarants are also very accomodating.
Debbie Miron October 06, 2012 at 05:17 AM
There is a growing number of companies offering gluten free products. Please visit www.healthynaturalgreen.myshaklee.com for a list of nutritional products that are gluten free. Restaurants have also expanded their gluten free offerings. It's nice to see there is choice and availability in gluten free products!
Amelia Bonacorso October 06, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Rachel, I really loved reading about your experience with eating gluten free. I too feel much better when I cut back on gluten or cut it out of my diet completely periodically.
Angela Ri October 06, 2012 at 08:33 PM
This is a fascinating subject. It's interesting how food humans depend on can also make us feel bloated and tired. Another example of this is meat; vegetarians are often healthier and happier than meat eaters.


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