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Tips for Going Gluten Free | Health

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Tips for Going Gluten Free
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Many products on the store shelves today carry the words “gluten free” on them. But just what does that mean, and why is it there? The label means plenty!  But in a nutshell, it means avoiding wheat, spelt, barley and rye, and a variety of other grain-based ingredients. Gluten-free foods are being sought out by many people, including the over 3 million people who have celiac disease, as well as millions more who have a gluten intolerance or sensitivity. The good news it that while it may seem like going gluten free is a daunting task, it is actually isn’t all that difficult!

“Millions of people have to go gluten free to live healthy lives,” explains Dr. Gary Kaplan, founder of The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine (www.kaplanclinic.com), located in McLean, Va. “If you have celiac disease, consuming gluten can lead to many serious health problems; therefore, it needs to be completely eliminated from you diet. Those with gluten intolerances and sensitivities also need to adopt a gluten-free diet so they can alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms, such as joint and abdominal pain, that they may experience.”  

Going gluten free sometimes seems like an uphill battle, but that is mainly because it is a new concept. There are a few things to keep in mind to help keep going gluten free easier and more successful, including:

  • Change your mindset – it’s about taking charge of your heath. The first thing that needs to change isn’t your diet; it’s your thinking!  Getting used to the idea that your dietary habits need to change because they’re making you sick. Recognize that making the necessary changes will greatly improve how you feel.
  • Clean out the cupboards. If you live alone, clean out all of the items in your pantry that contains gluten. Either give them away or toss them out!  If you share a kitchen with others who are not sensitive to gluten, create a separate place for the ingredients and foods that you can eat. This will help prevent cross-contamination.
  • Start reading labels.  While becoming gluten free, always take time to read food labels carefully. Once you know what items are gluten free, your grocery shopping will quicker and easier.
  • Prepare ahead.  If you are planning to dine out, you’ll need to do some investigating ahead of time. Find out what foods will be served or what gluten-free items are available on the menu. When attending a party, you can always bring a dish of your own. More and more restaurants offer gluten-free menus. The bottom line: Don’t be shy about asking questions about ingredients. Your good health depends upon you vigilantly avoiding gluten! 
  • Get support. If you’re going gluten free, get the support you need to get started, and see it through. This can be done by working with a dietitian, nutritionist, or even hooking up with others who have gone gluten free. There are support groups, both online and in-person, that can help you navigate the new terrain.
  • Be consistent. To reap the benefits of improved health and wellbeing that come with going gluten free, you must stick with it.  It can take a month or more of consistent gluten-free eating to begin to feel the health benefits.  But the longer you stick with being gluten free, the easier and more second nature it will become.

“Celiac disease is a diagnosis that is frequently missed for decades and can pose serious health problems,” Dr. Kaplan says. “Going gluten free is critical and in many cases will resolve the symptoms.  Frequently, however, a more comprehensive approach is necessary to help individuals with this disease return to optimal health. We work closely with each of our patients to develop an individualized treatment program that helps her or him thrive being gluten free.”

Celiac disease causes an abnormal immune reaction to gluten, which causes inflammation of the small intestines, which in turn can prevent the body from absorbing nutrients as it should.  If undiagnosed, it can lead to many other health problems. Those with gluten intolerance suffer from a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, joint pain, headaches, and depression. Although someone with gluten intolerance may have many of the same symptoms as a person with celiac disease, it is important to note that, unlike celiac disease, gluten intolerance is not an autoimmune disease.

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