According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA), 18 million Americans have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. But just what is gluten sensitivity? Gluten sensitivity is the term used to describe people who cannot tolerate gluten and end up experiencing symptoms similar to celiac disease. Symptoms include GI difficulties, headaches, joint pain or numbness in the fingers or toes.
Dr. Arthur Agaston, medical director for Baptist Health South Florida, listed five things everyone should know about gluten as reported by CNN. Here are those five things:
1. Gluten is a protein that can cause problems. Gluten is the major protein found in some – but not all – grains. Common grains that contain gluten are wheat (ie: semolina, bulgur, spelt, faro and others), barley, rye and tritcale. Extracts of gluten proteins also show up in unexpected foods, such as chocolate, soy sauce and imitation crab.
2. You probably don’t need to completely avoid it. Unless you’re part of the less than 1% of the American population that has been diagnosed with celiac disease, you don’t have to be completely gluten free.
3. Just cut back. Americans have greatly increased their daily intake of gluten products over the last 50 years – most if it in highly refined flours. Dr. Agaston places his patients on a gluten free diet for a few weeks then slowly reintroduces gluten to determine individual thresholds.
4. Going gluten free can cause weight gain. Some people ended up gaining weight when they changed their diet to a gluten free one. This is primarily because they chose to eat gluten free packaged foods that were just as high in saturated fat, sodium and sugars as typical junk foods. Going gluten free is not a pass to overindulge on gluten free foods.
5. Gluten is not something to be afraid of. It is good to be aware of what you are eating, but don’t be afraid of gluten. Knowing what your individual tolerance may be is the key here.
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