The Basic Gluten-Free Diet

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A diet that eliminates the protein called gluten is one that can be called gluten-free. Gluten is common to many grains, including wheat, rye, barley and triticale.

A gluten-free diet is usually prescribed to people who suffer from celiac disease, explains the Mayo Clinic. Celiac disease is essentially a negative reaction to gluten. Individuals with celiac disease experience inflammation of the lower intestine when they eat products with gluten, which leads to uncomfortable symptoms and side effects. Other people, although they don't meet the clinical definition of having a celiac disease, can also experience problems when they eat gluten-based products. This is called a non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Regardless of what causes a gluten intolerance, people with a gluten sensitivity should avoid eating foods that contain gluten. It can make some time switch to a gluten-free diet, as gluten exists in many foods and by-products like fortified cereal.

Gluten-free Foods
To help people with a gluten sensitivity determine what foods they can and cannot eat, the Mayo Clinic has a list of suggested items. Foods that are permitted include eggs, fresh meat, fish and poultry - provided it is not breaded or coated in batter and marinade - beans, seeds and nuts that are unprocessed, fruits and vegetables and most dairy products. Pure wheat grass and barley grass do not naturally contain gluten but their seeds do. When considering getting these products, people should be aware that there is some risk of cross-contamination if the grasses are not processed properly. Although products like bread and crackers traditionally contain gluten, people may still be able to find gluten-free alternatives of these foods as many manufacturers are creating variations of their products to meet the needs of consumers with gluten sensitivities.

Gluten-free Grains
While people with gluten sensitivities are usually encouraged to be wary of grains, there are some grains that do not contain gluten and they can be included as part of a gluten-free diet. These grains include soy, millet, tapioca, flax, yucca, chia, buckwheat, corn and cornmeal, arrowroot, amaranth, millet, sorghum, rice and quinoa. This also includes gluten-free flours, which are made from corn, potato, rice, bean or soy. Some of these grains are relatively uncommon, so people may have to look for them in specialty food stores and health food stores. While these grains are naturally gluten-free, there can be a risk of cross-contamination if they are not harvested properly or harvested with machinery and equipment that is used to collect other grains that do contain gluten. Before getting these grains, people should look for versions that have been tested for gluten, and that only have gluten levels of 20 parts-per-million or less.

Foods to Avoid
Just as there are some foods that people with gluten sensitivities can safely eat, there are others that they should avoid. These include food products and beverages that have barley, wheat, rye and triticale. Triticale is a cross between wheat and rye. While people can get an idea of what foods they should and should not eat, the labeling on food products can create a challenge as wheat is sometimes posted under a different name. When buying processed foods, consumers should avoid products that are not specifically labeled as gluten-free or made from gluten-free grains.