Wednesday Wisdom: How To Begin Gluten Free Journey, Stage 1
This topic has long been in my To-Do list. I have points written in my diary, there are references bookmarked in my laptop, I can speak non-stop for about good 20-30 minutes on this plus I have few pages typed and saved for my “gluten free cook book”. Yes, call me silly but this is one of the things I would love to do even when I am fully aware of the fact that no one buys cook books any more. So why I have not post any such thing on the blog yet? Well, I want to keep Wednesday Wisdom short and to-the-point without “too much to process information” and this is such a vast field of discussion that one single post won’t be enough. Plus detailed and well researched information is already available online. I want to discuss few points which are relatable to our Pakistani society, how we can tackle it, focusing on local and available food options. Starting with basic information,
- What is Gluten : Mainly two proteins; gliadin and glutenin, combine together to form gluten. These proteins are found only in grains. Gluten gives elasticity to the dough and the word gluten literally means glue. According to researches, protein gliadin is responsible for the most negative impact on health. This form of protein, gluten, has no nutritional significance so eliminating it from your diet will not effect your health. Gluten is mainly found in wheat, spelt, barley and rye which means any product made out of these grains will be containing gluten. Out of all, wheat is the most commonly used grain where as spelt is another type of wheat with higher content of sugar. Other grains like millet, oats do not contain gluten but they are usually grown side by side with wheat so chances of cross contamination are very high.
- What is Celiac Disease : It is an autoimmune disease which means an abnormal reaction to a normal body part. When a celiac patient eats gluten, an immune response is triggered in the small intestine. With continuous consumption of gluten, this immune reaction damages the lining of small intestine over the time. When this lining is damaged, there will be mal absorption which means some nutrients will not be aborbed and this intestinal damage often causes anemia, diarrhea, bloating, stomach ache, fatigue etc.
- What is Non Celiac Gluten Allergy/ Sensitivity : Some people experience bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain, irritable bowel, rashes on skin, fatigue, depression, mental fatigue when they eat gluten but they test negative for celiac or wheat allergy.
- Whom to Consult? Book an appointment with a doctor or gastroenterologist to get proper diagnosis and follow his advice. It usually goes undiagnosed because we don’t go through proper testing plus it can happen at any age.
- Diagnosed! Now What? First thing to do is to stop the intake gluten containing food completely. It also include food that are made out of them. I am approaching this post diagnosis phenomena like 7 stages of grief. Trust me, it will make sense 🙂
I always use one word to describe what a person or his family feels when diagnosed with celiac or gluten sensitivity, OVERWHELMING. There is disbelief and shock specially if this is the first person in the family. This reaction and this whole gush of emotions is very much ok. We are all humans and we all take some time to wrap our heads around a new situation. I would suggest the following 10 points for the initial phase:
- Discussing the issue with your doctor and a nutritionist to have a better understanding of dietary requirements.
- Keep notes of what these specialist tell you. Go through these notes and see if there is anything yo don’t understand.
- Make a list of questions, if any, and ask your nutritionist.
- Let the news sink in and give yourself sometime to process. We all need time to calm down.
- Asking random people will give you only random information. Be sure to consult the “right” person.
- Keep the patient and/or the person responsible for meal management involved in these discussions. Jot down as many points as possible.
- Instead of “making” gluten free food, focus on food that are naturally gluten free. Meat, dairy, fruits, vegetables, nuts, oils, beans, legumes (daal) and most grains are naturally gluten free.
- It is important to understand that minimizing gluten intake is not an option. Patients and family have to have clarity about this.
- Remember that it is manageable. It might take awhile to adjust so try to stay strong.
- We are a carb/starch eating nation so replace wheat completely with rice. Don’t rush to stack gluten free labeled products without doing proper homework. For breakfast, add proteins like kebab, eggs cooked in different ways with cheese and sliced fruit. Cornflakes aren’t gluten free. They contain malt/barley.