"Gluten-free" refers to a dietary term used to describe foods that do not contain gluten. Gluten is a mixture of proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, and their derivatives. It provides elasticity and structure to many grain-based products, giving them their characteristic texture.
For individuals with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or wheat allergies, consuming gluten can lead to adverse health effects. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the body's immune system reacts negatively to gluten, damaging the small intestine. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity refers to individuals who experience similar symptoms to celiac disease but do not have the characteristic intestinal damage. Wheat allergies involve an allergic reaction to proteins found in wheat, including gluten.
A gluten-free diet excludes all sources of gluten. This means avoiding foods and ingredients derived from wheat, barley, rye, and their byproducts. Common gluten-containing foods include bread, pasta, cereals, baked goods, beer, and many processed foods. Gluten-free alternatives are available for these products, such as gluten-free bread, pasta made from alternative grains, and gluten-free flours.
It is important for individuals following a gluten-free diet to read food labels carefully, as gluten can be present in unexpected products or as an ingredient in food additives. Some foods may be naturally gluten-free, such as fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, legumes, dairy products, and certain grains like rice, quinoa, and corn.
If you suspect you have celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or a wheat allergy, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional for accurate diagnosis and guidance on following a gluten-free diet. They can provide appropriate information and support to ensure your dietary needs are met while maintaining a balanced and nutritious eating plan.