Food Intolerance & in particular ~ gluten-free diets
Gastrointestinal experts estimate that 10 to 25 percent of Americans have a sensitivity to at least one food, other experts say the number is actually much higher. The exact number is uncertain however it is increasingly an issue.
Food intolerance is different from allergies. An allergy is an immune system response whereby your body mistakes a certain food for a harmful 'invader' and creates antibodies to fight it. Symptoms usually occur immediately and can be mild to life-threatening (from nausea, hives, shortness of breath to anaphylaxis.) Only about 3 to 4 percent of adults in the U.S. have true food allergies (according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.) A food intolerance is a response from the gastrointestinal system ~ when certain foods are poorly absorbed from the intestine to the bloodstream, symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, gas, bloating and diarrhea or constipation can occur 30 minutes to 8 hours after consuming the food.
Having gas or feeling bloated after drinking milk or eating pasta is not uncommon and does not necessarily mean you have a food intolerance. It is very important not to self-diagnose food intolerance, as a simple blood test will reveal such a problem. Also, cutting out suspect foods may only keep you from getting certain vital nutrients ~ for example, if you are not gluten intolerant, a gluten-free diet is not healthier.
Gluten intolerance is not a food allergy and usually does not cause any damage unless it is actually Celiac Disease (when gluten triggers the body's immune system and causes it to damage the villi, which are tiny, fingerlike projections in the small intestine that absorb nutrients from food.) Celiac Disease is an auto-immune disease.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rey, barley, spelt and triticale that helps grains grow and reproduce. It is what gives dough its elasticity and enables it to rise. But even foods that are not bakery products can contain gluten such as: ice cream, ketchup, salad dressings, cold-cuts, beer, flavored potato chips, some herbal teas, licorice and some chocolates.
Here are some helpful hints if you are diagnosed with an intolerance to gluten:
Read all labels and try to stay away from foods with the following ingredients: barley, cale, caramel, durham, graham, Kamut, malt, malt flavoring or malt vinegar, modified food starch, rye, semolina, spelt, triticale or wheat.
Substitute traditional breads, cereals and pastas with gluten-free grains and plant products such as: beans, buck-wheat substitutes, corn, millet, potato, quinoa, rice, soy and tapioca.
Avoid beer, ale and lagers enjoy wine or hard liquor drinks.
If you worry about accidentally consuming gluten you can try probiotics. Taking lactobacillus and acidophilus before eating may make gluten less toxic.
More restaurants are catering to gluten-free dining. The Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program (www.glutenfreerestaurants.org/), is run by the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America.
Again, see a professional to determine whether you have a food sensitivity or not. Do not self-diagnose and risk missing out on vital nutrients. Also, restricting your diet unnecessarily can keep you from getting an accurate diagnosis of a more serious condition.
When in doubt, eat mainly fruits and veggies for exceptionally good health!
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