Thinking of going gluten-free and wanting some insight into the dietary changes? Or have you been diagnosed with an intolerance to gluten or celiac disease
? Before tackling these new eating habits it’s important to understand the culprit – gluten. What is it, and why it affects your body?
Gluten is a specific type of protein. It’s not found in the animals sources of protein but instead in wheat, barley, and rye. A gluten-free diet is essentially minimizing or removing those grains from your food intake. Two terms to be extra careful to avoid are also malt (which is made from barley) and hydrolyzed vegetable protein (it often contains wheat). Oats do not contain gluten, but they increase symptoms, including abdominal pain, bloating, and worse-case diarrhea.
The signs of a gluten-intolerance can vary from person to person. The most common symptoms are gastrointestinal issues, but the condition may be present in other ways, such as fatigue or weight loss. If you suspect you may have an intolerance it is very important you seek medical attention to diagnose and treat your condition. This isn’t a food intolerance you want to self-diagnose.
Celiac disease, is the most severe on the spectrum of gluten sensitivities. It is an auto-immune disorder that can be present in genetically predisposed individuals, where the presence of gluten can actually damage their small intestines. This process causes server discomfort and leads to malabsorption of nutrients in the the body.
Author of Gluten-Free My Recipe
ABOUT TIME wanted to give our readers some first-hand knowledge about the gluten-free lifestyle so we want you to meet our newest contributor to our blog – M.C. NAV. An athlete who loves food and sought out to still love food and embrace the gluten-free diet.
Let me first start by introducing myself. My name is M.C. Nav and I am IN LOVE with food. I grew up in a big, Italian family where holidays and gatherings were centered around food. Sausage Lasagna, Chicken Parm, Penne alla Vodka, Garlic Bread – oh mama the list would go on and on! Not to mention the dining room table covered entirely with desserts! It’s safe to say that my day to day rituals were centered around meals. But as soon as I hit puberty, I started to pack on the pounds. The years of eating whatever I wanted were long gone and I actually needed to pay attention to what I was putting in my mouth. I started to incorporate some healthier food choices into my diet and exercise a few times a week. The pounds started to melt off but I still wasn’t 100% healthy.
A few years later, just after my 20th birthday, I started to experience some severe abdominal pain after each meal. Some days it would be so bad that I would find myself hunched over or crawled up into a little ball on my bed, with chest and stomach pain. What was happening to me!? I wasn’t eating anything different. It got bad enough where I scheduled an appointment to meet with a gastroenlogist. He diagnoised me with IBS and Spastic Colon, prescribed pain meds, told me to come back in six months and sent me on his way.
Months of daily medication and no improvement. Could it be my diet? No way, I’ve been eating this way since I was a kid, what would have magically changed now? I was talking to a friend of mine about how she had recently started a gluten-free diet after she was having “tummy issues”. Could this be the cause for my problems too? It couldn’t hurt to give it a try. So I started out slow – swapping quinoa pasta for regular wheat pasta, introducing gluten-free grains and trying out a few gluten-free baked goods (some that I would care to forget about tasting!).
M.C. loving the changes of going gluten-free
My pains were becoming less frequent my energy level was through the roof. But I wasn’t 100% committed to a gluten-free diet — I did mention my family’s big Italian, gluten-packed feasts right?? It was no surprise that each night I indulged in heaping portions of gluten breads and pastas it was followed by three days of hell. The word “regular” was not even close to being a part of my digestion vocabulary! I was fed up. It was time to jump in head first and commit to a fully gluten-free lifestyle. I did my research, took extra time on my weekly grocery shopping trips and made sure I was careful about eating out at any restaurants.
After my success converting my habits this time — I was missing my grandmother’s meatballs, lasagna and garlic bread. I knew there must be a way to alter those treasured recipes to fit my new gluten-free diet. Recipe by recipe I broke down each ingredient and made healthy swaps. Soon enough I had transformed so many recipes that I was able to compile them into a gluten-free cookbook and conversion guide!
Now let’s talk about gluten. What even is gluten? In simple terms, gluten is a protein found primarily in wheat, barley and rye. It is hidden in so many of the foods that are in our daily lives. And even some foods that do not have gluten naturally might not be gluten-free! So often food is processed on factory equipment that also processed gluten-containing products. This is known as cross-contamination, which makes those products no longer gluten-free. For a full list of gluten-containing foods, visit my website (GlutenFreeMyRecipe.com) for more information.
When most people think about a gluten-free diet, they might first think of Celiac Disease. Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease where the immune system has an abnormal reaction to gluten. Depending on the severity, gluten consumption may cause inflammation or damage to your small intestine. Therefore it is vital that those diagnosed with Celiac start a gluten-free diet immediately. The symptoms of Celiac Disease are, but are not limited to, abdominal pain, gas/bloating, constipation or diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, skin rashes, fatigue, headaches, unexplained weight loss and muscle/joint pain. If you are experiencing any of those symptoms, it is important to receive the proper testing from your physician. If a test for Celiac Disease comes up negative, you may still have an intolerance to gluten and could benefit from eliminating it from your diet.
Start off by cutting gluten out of your diet – cold turkey! (Speaking of cold-cut turkey, did you know some contain gluten?!) Keep a food log and jot down the correlation certain foods have with your digestive symptoms, moods and overall energy level. Then try to slowly incorporate gluten back into your diet and observe the changes. If you notice infrequent pains and a boost to your energy without gluten, you may suffer from a gluten-intolerance (just like me!). An intolerance can range anywhere from small to severe. It is important to note that before making any extreme changes to your diet, you should first consult your doctor.
In my opinion, anyone can benefit from a gluten-free diet – especially those who live an active lifestyle. We are seeing a large increase in the amount of athletes using a gluten-free diet in combination with their training (i.e. Novak Djokovic, Dana Vollmer, etc.) They rave about their increased energy, the decrease in muscle/joint pain and their overall performance. For me, a gluten-free diet has allowed me to reach new heights for my working out/power lifting. I am a firm believer that “Abs are made in the kitchen, NOT in the gym”, which is why I make sure my diet is filled with nutritious/healthy gluten free foods!
With my increased focus on both nutrition and fitness, I needed to find a safe product to use after my workouts. I came across “About Time” through word of mouth and thought that it was too good to be true! A gluten-free, lactose-free all natural brand of whey isolate, protein bars and pre-workout powders! Not to mention that all of their products have great nutritional facts (only 100 calories for one scoop of protein powder!). I remember my first taste of a birthday cake flavored protein shake after a two hour long leg workout. I was in heaven – it was thick, creamy and the best tasting protein shake I have ever had in my entire life. Ever since that moment, I have tried all of their products and found new ways to incorporate them into my recipes. You can image the dancing that I did after I found out that About Time wanted ME to be their gluten-free blogger!
About Time has helped me on my journey to a happy, healthy, gluten-free lifestyle! In all honesty, gluten-free isn’t for everyone and that’s fine! If you have any questions about a gluten-free diet in combination with fitness, feel free to contact me by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’d be happy to help you in anyway I can!
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