What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in all wheat, barley, rye, triticale and, unless specifically certified as "gluten-free", oats (oats are naturally gluten-free but are frequently contaminated with wheat during growing or processing). This also includes wheat preparations such as cous cous, bulgur and semolina. There are also many 'ancient grains' related to wheat, such as spelt, farro, durum and kamut that are lower in gluten but not gluten-free. Some gluten-intolerant eaters will find that they can tolerate some amount of these ancient grains, though celiacs should avoid them altogether. Note that "buckwheat" is actually not a wheat at all and is therefore naturally gluten-free.
Why might I avoid gluten?
Gluten is a long protein string and as such is difficult for many people to digest -- we say that these people are "gluten-intolerant". Some people may be either allergic or intolerant to wheat but not to other gluten-containing grains. For people with celiac disease, gluten in all its forms acts as a toxin that destroys the villi that are so crucial to the digestive process. Celiac disease is potentially life-threatening if left undetected and can only be diagnosed while the patient still has gluten in the diet. Therefore, it is recommended that you talk with your medical practitioner about doing a blood test to screen for celiac disease before removing gluten from your diet. Visit the Celiac Disease Foundation for more information on this difficult disease.
How do I get started gluten-free?
Starting on a gluten-free diet can be intimidating but it doesn't have to be. There are far more gluten-free products and information available today than was the case even 5 years ago -- and now you have the freedible database to help you as well! Here are our suggested next steps:
1) Make a shopping list of all the go-to items you'll need to replace in your pantry.
2) Follow our guide to Meal Planning for a New Food Challenge and make out your 'plan of attack' for the first week or so, and our Food Challenge Survival Guide to help you get through this transition.
3) Search freedible.com for gluten-free recipes to try.
4) Join the Gluten-Free Group in our community to connect up with others who are just starting out - and 'old hands' that can show you the ropes.
5) Check out the links below for more detailed information for those with celiac disease or who are otherwise highly sensitive to gluten.
Where can I find out more?
Try these links for starters: