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My husband has been gluten-free since he had a positive anti-gliadin antibody test 14 years ago during a workup for longstanding systemic symptoms. Since the regulation of what a GF label signifies was not passed until 2013, he had to analyze all labels and scan for sneaky ingredients that may contain gluten like modified food starch. Fast forward to the first time I cooked for him. I was anxious as to what to choose and lamented that I would have to alter my go-to breakfasts, southern casseroles, desserts, you name it. Upon finding out that substitutions for wheat-containing food products were readily available, I could breathe easy knowing I could still cook for him! Rye and barley have been even less of an issue.

If you or someone in your family has had chronic abdominal issues or unexplained symptoms, has celiac disease, or has been working on weight control, you likely have experience with the gluten-free diet. The diet started as the treatment for gluten-sensitive enteropathy, or celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease wherein the ingestion of gluten sets off an immune response that attacks the small intestine. The intestinal lining heals on a gluten-free diet.

Gluten intolerance is now commonly looked at on a spectrum from low-grade gluten sensitivity to full blown Celiac’s, and the large percentage of the population avoiding gluten do not have Celiac’s disease. How do you know if you are gluten-sensitive? Gluten insensitivity is still regarded as a diagnosis of exclusion, but I recommend trialing a plant-based diet that is low in gluten or gluten-free for everyone in the US - you will see a difference in your energy level and mood even if you were eating fairly healthy foods previously. I definitely have.

Why give up that wonderfully squishy bread and pasta if you don’t have positive antibody tests or known allergy? Gluten is pro-inflammatory.

Inflammation is the response of the immune system triggered by pathogens, injury, and noxious stimuli. When immune cells are continuously activated, this inflammation may become self-sustainable and chronic. There are numerous conditions associated with chronic inflammation as it irritates every organ.

There are many medical and psychiatric disorders associated with chronic inflammation including autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, cancer, and depression.

We are learning more and more that substitutions must be chosen carefully. There are still unlabeled food additives like transglutaminase, a microbial enzyme widely used in processed meats, dairy products and baked goods now under study as a possible trigger for the development of celiac disease. In other countries, there are so many differences in agricultural practices, processing and storage that diets would have to be analyzed totally differently.

Here in the US, a plant-based diet low in gluten will have health benefits for you, as long as you choose your substitutions wisely. Stay tuned for more and have a wonderful day!

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