These days many people have started to eat gluten-free.  Everywhere you look, from restaurants to grocery stores, gluten-free options are popping up. By March 2013, the NPD Group, a consumer marketing research firm, found that a third of U.S. adults were trying to eliminate gluten from their diets. They also found that the number of people ordering a gluten-free item off a restaurant menu has doubled in the past four years.

These numbers indicate that gluten-free eating is more than just a trend and that eating for gluten sensitivity should become easier.

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, spelt, rye, and barley. It is the substance that gives unbaked dough its elastic stretch and allows the bread to rise when baked. For those with gluten sensitivities ranging from mild discomfort to celiac disease, gluten can be debilitating. The body actually attacks not only the gluten protein but also the intestinal wall itself. Celiac disease is classified as an autoimmune disorder because of this response, which can be severe.

In addition to intestinal discomfort, gluten can produce an inflammatory response within the body, as well as fatigue and a general condition called “failure to thrive.” Gluten sensitivity also has a tendency to exist within people who are suffering from other health conditions such as fibromyalgia and arthritis. Some doctors believe that avoiding gluten can help with these other health problems, including reducing pain in joints.

If you suffer from fibromyalgia, arthritis, or any of the uncomfortable symptoms of gluten sensitivity (stomach pain, gas, constipation, or diarrhea), talk with your doctor about eating for gluten sensitivities.  Managing your diet for pain relief and relief from gluten sensitivity can start with keeping a food journal. Make a note of the foods you eat and your body’s response. Over several weeks, you should be able to see which food triggers painful symptoms.

Another approach is the elimination diet. 

Stop eating gluten completely for several weeks and see if your symptoms improve. If you want to really find out which foods might be causing sensitivity, eliminate the big three completely: gluten, corn, and dairy.  You can substitute rice products, including rice-based breads, and rice or almond milks and products in the interim. After a month, add one category in at a time, slowly, and see how you feel. If you are sensitive to gluten, your response will be immediate when you add it back in to your diet.

Living gluten-free is easier than ever, and more gluten-free products are available at the grocery store every day. Eliminating gluten can be another important step in managing pain associated with fibromyalgia and arthritis.

What gluten-free products have you tried, and what did you think of them?

Image by rprata via Flickr


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