Wednesday, December 21, 2011

How to Survive the Holidays Gluten-Free

Happy Holidays to all my Gluten Free Friends!!!

This week, David J. Blyweiss, M.D. asked to share his knowledge about how our Celiac community can stay gluten free and healthy through the Holiday season.  Here's what Dr. Blyweiss had to say:

Is it possible to stay gluten-free through all the holiday parties and family gatherings this season?  It is but it can be a challenge for anyone.  If you have celiac disease, your immune system treats gluten like a toxin. It was once a rare disorder, but now celiac disease is four times more common today than it was five decades ago.

Even if you don’t suffer from the disease itself, many are still sensitive to gluten — especially if you suffer from:

·        Stomach pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and/or constipation, vomiting.
·        Migraines
·        Joint pain
·        Chronic fatigue
·        Brain fog
·        Hay fever and sinus infections
·        Skin rashes, especially eczema or hives
·        Unexplained weight loss

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness has a comprehensive checklist - if you've suffered from any of the symptoms listed, check those that apply, and please share with your doctor. 

Eating holiday cookies or other seasonal favorites that contain gluten can actually damage the intestines of those with celiac. Even if you haven’t tested positive for celiac, you still might not be out of the woods. It turns out that 30 million Americans have nonceliac gluten intolerance. That’s 1 in every 10 of us! These statistics are from Wheat Belly By Dr. William David.

The symptoms can be the same as celiac, but gluten sensitivity doesn’t damage the intestine. If you do discover that gluten isn’t your friend, don’t run out and stock up on gluten-free pizza and brownie mix. Going gluten-free doesn’t necessarily equal healthy at any time of the year. In fact, if you start to rely on all those trendy gluten-free ultra-processed packaged foods, you just might end up with nutritional deficiencies.

Here’s what I tell my patients who can’t eat gluten: Skip the gluten-free goodies that crop up at holiday party trays. Instead, focus on fresh fruits, vegetables, lean protein, dairy and gluten-free grains like non-contaminated oats, amaranth and quinoa.

If you do opt for some pre-seasoned or packaged foods, read the ingredient label carefully to make sure it doesn’t contain any gluten. Familiarize yourself with ingredients such as natural flavors, monosodium glutamate, modified food starch, malt, seasoning and hydrolyzed vegetable protein that contain gluten. Also, don’t skip your comprehensive multivitamin and vitamin B complex to make up for the nutrients you would normally get from whole grains.

If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, keeping your diet focused around fresh, naturally gluten-free foods and sticking to holiday foods cooked from scratch as often as possible is the best way to avoid exposure. You’ll not only discover a whole new world of delicious foods, and you will be able to enjoy the holidays as much as anyone else.

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