How to Live Well with Gluten Sensitivity

Gluten sensitivity is a characteristic of three conditions: celiac disease (CD), wheat allergy, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). One percent of the population has celiac disease, the most serious of these conditions, and one in 1,000 people have wheat allergies. The incidence of NCGS is unknown, but it is certainly the most common of the three disorders.

If you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, you must avoid gluten, permanently. Wheat allergies, however, often present in childhood and can be outgrown. If you have an allergy and wish to stay in optimal health, it is wise to avoid wheat and all the food products made with wheat.

NCGS is a more vague ailment, and there is some controversy about how to alleviate it. If you believe you are having  reaction to gluten, first ask your doctor or natural health practitioner to test you for celiac disease. If you have a negative test for CD, try adopting a plant-based diet of whole foods, including whole grains. Eat the whole grains in their natural state, rather than processed food products made with whole grain flours. This may provide you with a comfortable dietary regimen. If your symptoms persist, you will probably do better on a gluten-free diet.

So what is a gluten-free diet?

Rule number one for a gluten-free diet is to eliminate all foods made with wheat, rye or barley, including their variations and hybrids. These foods include many packaged foods, cereals, pasta and baked goods. But a gluten-free diet is about more than what you can’t eat – it’s about what you can!

You can eat wild rice, brown rice, corn, (gluten-free) oats, amaranth, buckwheat (or kasha), millet, quinoa, sorghum, all root vegetables (like potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, and cassava root), all legumes (more specifically beans, soybeans, chickpeas, peas and lentils), all green leafy vegetables, all yellow and red vegetables, and all whole fruits.

Moreover, there are good replacements for wheat:

Instead of spaghetti, use noodles made from buckwheat, quinoa, corn or rice.
Use corn tortillas or collard greens in place of wheat flour wraps.
Use brown rice lasagna noodles instead of the whole-wheat variety.
Eat gluten-free oats or brown rice crispy cereal in place of whole wheat cereal.

Here’s a sample of meals for a day:

Start the day with gluten-free oats and fruits for breakfast. Have a big soup with beans, veggies and brown rice for lunch, and for dinner, sweet potatoes topped with greens, chickpeas and salsa.

One more thing to remember: Gluten-free does not necessarily mean healthy. Be sure your gluten-free diet is free of added sugars, unhealthy fats and added salt.