Tingling fingers and toes, aching joints, and abdominal pain might be signs of a serious condition, celiac disease. People with celiac disease or gluten intolerance can’t eat gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. A gluten-free diet isn’t necessary or even healthful for other people.
- About 1 person in 100 has celiac disease. More people are gluten sensitive, which means they don’t have celiac disease, but they do get sick when they eat gluten or can break out in a rash.
- Gluten is found in any foods made from wheat, rye, or barley. These include bread, pasta, cookies, and crackers, as well as many sauces and soups. Sometimes a gluten-free food like oatmeal is processed on the same factory equipment as a food with gluten, which contaminates the food.
- When people opt for a gluten-free diet, they often eat more fruits and vegetables, creating a more healthy diet. If they simply eat gluten-free versions of breads and pastas, their diet might actually be less healthy. Many gluten-free breads contain more sugar or fat than regular varieties.
- Gluten-free foods include all fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, chicken, legumes, and dairy products. Grain-type items include rice, potatoes, cassava, corn, soy, millet, quinoa, chia seeds, and nut flours.
- Bakers have become creative at using flour substitutes, such as almond flour, to make cakes and cookies. Of course, these ingredients are usually more expensive than traditional wheat flours. And, they don’t always taste very good.
Questions and Answers
Question: What should I do if my friend is gluten-free?
Answer: First, understand that your friend probably avoids gluten because she or he has a medical condition. Don’t tease her or make a big deal out of it. Food, especially dessert, is a big part of social activities, such as birthday parties or end-of-the-school-year parties. If you’re serving food, be sure to offer an alternative without gluten or focus on activities and memories, rather than food.
Find out why you shouldn’t be on a gluten-free diet unless you have a medical reason for doing so.