THE GLUTEN-FREE DIET
The gluten-free diet (GFD), or more appropriately coined, gluten-free lifestyle, is quickly gaining momentum in those suffering from a variety of diseases, allergies and intolerances. It is becoming increasingly recognized in medical and natural health communities as a way to manage conditions ranging from digestive dysfunction to seemingly simple skin disorders and everything in between (no pun intended!).
GFD is the only known treatment for Celiac disease, but increasing numbers of health conscious individuals and families are turning to a GFD to manage other ailments and as a way to increase protein and fibre in their diets, or generally lower wheat intake. Many report simply “feeling better” as a result of a GFD. Zena wants you to feel better!
Gluten is a protein found in wheat and many other grains, and for those with a gluten allergy, it damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents the body from absorbing nutrients. This can subsequently cause a number of symptoms including diarrhea, bloating, weight loss or gain, skin conditions, a host of other symptoms and ultimately, malnutrition.
From a baker’s point of view, gluten is the “glue” if you will, that helps to make baked goods structurally sound. But fear not – the same structure can be achieved using gluten-free flours. It just takes a little creativity.
CELIAC DISEASE (CD)
Celiac disease is a condition of the digestive system that damages the lining of the small intestine and interferes with one’s ability to absorb nutrients from food. When the body reacts abnormally to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and sometimes oats (through processing contamination), Celiac disease is occurring.
When a celiac sufferer consumes gluten, that person’s immune system becomes inflamed, subsequently damaging the lining of the small intestine (villae), which results in an impaired ability to absorb nutrients. The inflammation and failure to absorb nutrients can manifest in many ways, and create wide-ranging problems in many systems of the body. CD is classified as an autoimmune disorder, as it is the body’s own systems which cause the actual damage of CD. Celiac disease is also sometimes referred to as sprue, nontropical sprue, gluten sensitive enteropathy, celiac sprue, and adult celiac disease.
Causes and symptoms
Celiac disease does have a genetic component, but is more commonly referred to as a “trigger” disease. This refers to a genetic or environmental predisposition to the disease, combined with the effects of an impactful experience such as surgery, a dramatic shift in diet, childbirth or severe emotional stress.
Celiac disease affects everyone differently, so diagnoses are sometimes difficult, however testing and CD awareness is on a steady incline. Medical and health communities are becoming more adept at diagnosing and treating the disease; subsequently, gluten-free products are becoming more prevalent and readily available to consumers.
Other conditions treated with a gluten-free diet
There are many other conditions and diseases that point to gluten as an aggravant to symptoms. These include autism & Asperger’s disease, Attention Deficit & Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), type 2 Diabetes, Crohn’s disease, dermatitis & other skin conditions. Also, it is even speculated that certain gastrointestinal problems related to gluten, when left untreated, can play a role in the development of certain cancers.
For many however, a gluten-free or gluten-reduced diet has been a choice in the interest of health and long-term well-being. Zena figures the world could use a little more balance, and when there are so many delicious and nutritious grains to discover and enjoy, why would anyone limit themselves to just one grain? Especially when everyone can eat gluten free!
There are plenty of fabulous gluten-free grains and ingredients that offer nutritional benefits and taste amazing. Zena actually believes that while a GF diet is sometimes not a choice, it makes us healthier in the long run, keeping us away from processed and prepared foods. We might avoid them because they contain wheat, but by choosing fresh GF goods, we bypass a pile of sodium, sugar, empty calories and preservatives too!
Zena’s Gluten-Free sources include:
- Quinoa (not actually a grain, but a seed, and a “complete protein” – Zena loves quinoa!)
- Sorghum (um, why doesn’t the western world know sorghum? It’s amazing!)
- Coconut (Zena adores coconut milk or cream as a replacement for butter…dairy free!)
- Flax Seeds
- Poppy Seeds
- Chia Seeds (complete protein!)
- Hemp Hearts