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Gluten Free & Me

  • Learn,
  • Eat

Hy-Vee Dietitian


Gluten, gluten, gluten. You’ve probably heard of this common protein found in some of the most popular grains. You likely even know someone who does not consume gluten, but do you really know what it really is? Should you be avoiding it too? If so, how do you avoid and what should you supplement in its place? Keep reading to get all the facts!

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). This protein gives food texture, taste, and structure.

Is Gluten a bad guy?

Not at all! While gluten has gotten a bad rap over time, it is not inherently bad. In fact, the only people who should avoid gluten are those who have a medical diagnosis. Gluten is found in many great sources of carbohydrates which should make up 55% to 60% of your diet. Cutting out gluten may lower your carb intake if proper dietary changes aren’t made. 

Individuals who do follow a gluten-free diet can supplement with other gluten-free carbohydrate sources. Some examples include:

  • Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Tapioca Starch
  • Gluten-free Oats

PRO TIP: Make sure your oats are marked gluten-free! While oats themselves do not contain gluten, they are often cross contaminated during processing.

Why go gluten-free?

There are three main reasons why an individual may adapt to a gluten-free diet:

  1. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes body to attack the small intestine when gluten is ingested. Over time, repeated attacks cause the small intestine to lose the ability to properly absorb nutrients which can lead to more health problems!
  2. Dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) is form of celiac disease that attacks the skin rather than the small intestine. DH causes a painful, itchy, and bumpy rash that is usually symmetrical. This means if you have the rash on one side of your body you will likely have the rash on the same party of your body in the opposite side. 
  3. Gluten sensitivity is the inability to metabolize gluten. It is unlike the above two conditions as it is NOT an autoimmune disease. It’s a little like being lactose intolerant except with gluten!

Common symptoms of celiac disease and/or gluten sensitivity include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Anemia
  • Bloating
  • Anxiety
  • Bloating or gas
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Fatigue

If you suspect a gluten intolerance in yourself or a family member, the best thing you can do is visit your doctor and get tested. This blog is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult a physician before making any dietary changes.