You’ve probably been hearing the word “gluten” more frequently in the past few years. The popularity of a gluten-free diet has skyrocketed, thanks in part to famous personalities who have publicly endorsed it. Although gluten-free foods were once reserved for people with a wheat allergy or celiac disease, this style of eating has become increasingly popular among those who have no medical reason to avoid gluten. If you’re wondering if a gluten-free diet is right for you, the first step is to figure out if gluten is affecting your health.
There are no specific laboratory tests to test for gluten sensitivity, so it’s up to you to do some investigating. Here are six signs you may be gluten sensitive:
- Gastrointestinal issues: Symptoms often associated with gluten sensitivity include nausea, bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain and constipation. People who experience these symptoms are often diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome.
- Skin conditions: If you’re sensitive to gluten, wheat and other gluten-containing foods can cause skin conditions such as acne, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and eczema.
- Confusion and headaches: If you’re eating gluten but your body is unable to handle it, warning signs that your body is struggling can include mental fog, confusion and frequent headaches.
- Pins and needles feeling: Gluten sensitivity symptoms often involve a feeling of pins and needles in the extremities. Known as peripheral neuropathy, the condition stems from nerve damage in the hands and feet. The link isn’t quite clear, but doctors say it’s quite common in patients with gluten issues.
- Joint and muscle pain: Eating gluten despite a sensitivity leads to inflammation in the body, which can negatively affect the joints. Joint and muscle pain can be indicative of many conditions, but one of them is a gluten sensitivity.
- Unexplained weight gain: A gluten sensitivity can throw your hormones out of whack, in addition to causing inflammation and swelling. Ultimately, this can lead to weight gain that seems otherwise unexplainable.
Whether or not you have a medical reason for choosing a gluten-free diet, nearly everyone can benefit from this style of eating. Grains, even whole sprouted varieties, tend to cause problems not only because of the presence of gluten, but also due to concerns around fructans, glyphosate contamination and wheat hybridization. Eating a gluten-free diet is relatively easy to do. You can accomplish this by focusing on whole, unprocessed foods that are naturally wheat- and gluten-free.
What Are the Types of Food That Contain Gluten?
Gluten is predominantly found in whole grains like rye, barley, triticale and oats; in wheat varieties like spelt, kamut, farro, durum; and in other products like bulgar and semolina. Wheat-based flours and byproducts that also contain high quantities of this protein include:
- White flour
- Graham flour
- Whole wheat flour
- Wheat germ
- Wheat bran
- Bread, bread crumbs and croutons
- Flour tortillas
- Cookies, cakes, muffins and pastries
- Gravy, dressings and sauces
- Conventional oats (these have a high chance of being contaminated during the growing, harvesting or processing stages
If there’s another compelling reason why you shouldn’t eat processed foods, it’s because these items often contain gluten. Here are examples of foods with gluten, even though they’re not made from grains:
- Processed broth and bouillon cubes
- Fried foods
- Lunch meats and hot dogs
- Cold cuts
- Self-basting poultry
- Crab cakes
- Imitation fish
- Seasoned rice
- Modified food starch
- Salad dressings
- Seasoned chips and other seasoned snack foods
- Processed yogurt
- Ice cream cones
Even worse, manufacturers deceive customers by “hiding” gluten products like wheat under other names in food labels, such as:
- Starches and other derivatives
- Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP)
- Hydrolyzed wheat protein
- Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
Best Foods to Eat if Following a Gluten-Free Diet
Once you’re given the go-signal to try a gluten-free diet, stock up on these natural and unprocessed foods:
- Beans (provided that you try to sprout and/or ferment your beans to reduce its lectin content, which may negatively impact your health in the long run)
- Seeds (chia, pumpkin or sunflower)
- Nuts (pecans, macadamias or walnuts)
- Organic and pasture-raised eggs
- Organic and grass fed meats that aren’t breaded, batter-coated or marinated
- Fish (wild-caught Alaskan salmon, sardines, anchovies and herring) that aren’t breaded, batter-coated or marinated
- Organically grown, GMO-free fruits and vegetables
- Raw, grass-fed milk or yogurt
- Healthy fat sources (raw grass-fed butter, coconuts and coconut oil, olives and olive oil, and avocados)
If you think going on a gluten-free diet limits eating choices and preparations, you’d be surprised to know that it won’t. Type “gluten-free recipes” on a search engine and you’ll see a wide variety of gluten-free recipes, ranging from savory to sweet. The Healthy Indian Recipe page has several gluten free recipes that you can choose from. A few good and delicious examples are below:
- Whole Grain Hot Cereal
- DIY Almond Milk
- Egg White Vegetable Omelet
- Banana Avocado Smoothie
- Romaine Ginger Smoothie
- Tomato Fenugreek Dal
- Stir Fry Sprouts and Vegetables
- Thai Curry Vegetable Soup
- Jeera Quinoa
- Egg Tomato Spicy Rice
- Curry Leaf Shrimp
Author Bio: Dr. Mercola finished his family practice residency in 1985 but was trained by the conventional model. In his first years of private practice, he treated many symptoms with prescription drugs and was actually a paid speaker for the drug companies. But as he began to experience the failures of this model in his practice, he embraced natural medicine and has had an opportunity over the last thirty years to apply these time tested approaches successfully with thousands of patients in his clinic. Over 15 years ago he founded Mercola.com to share his experiences with others. The site is the most visited natural health site in the world for the last seven years with nearly two million subscribers. He’s also written two NY Times bestselling books, and has had frequent appearances on national media including the Dr. Oz show and major news channels.