How can Gluten-Free Connecticut help me?
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What is Gluten?
Gluten (from Latin gluten, “glue“) is a protein composite found in wheat and related grains, including barley and rye. Western civilization relies on gluten not only as an important nutritional protein, but also as an ingredient for obtaining elasticity in dough, helping it to rise, keep its shape, and give the final product its chewy texture.
In recent years, some studies suggest that our bodies may not tolerate and digest this unique protein composite as well as everyone has always assumed. Some believe that this applies to everyone, and not just people suffering from degrees of sensitivity. As of yet, there is no definitive answer.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac Disease is a disorder in which the immune system attacks normal tissue, particularly the lining of the small intestine, in response to eating gluten. This can result in abdominal cramping, vomiting, failure to thrive, osteoporosis, fertility issues, anemia and diarrhea. It is not known what exactly causes celiac, but there is a genetic component.
A gluten-free diet is not optional for people with celiac disease, as the body reacts to gluten as if it were toxic. The damage that occurs in the small intestine from digesting gluten can leave sufferers at risk for significant nutritional deficiencies. Getting diagnosed and removing gluten from the diet is critical to avoid long-term damage to the intestines, as well as related issues.
What is Gluten Sensitivity?
Individuals who experience adverse reactions to the consumption of gluten, minus the intestinal damage, are considered to have non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). This is also referred to as gluten sensitivity, gluten hypersensitivity, and non-celiac gluten intolerance. Symptoms range widely from bloating and diarrhea to brain fog, joint inflammation, vertigo, depression, eczema and acne. Removing gluten from the diet relieves these symptoms. Once celiac disease and wheat allergy have been ruled out by blood test, gluten intolerance is the remaining diagnosis.
What is Wheat Allergy?
A food allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to a specific food protein. Wheat allergy is most common in children, and about 65% will outgrow it by the time they are 12. Symptoms are usually mild, but as with any allergy, there is always risk for more severe reactions. If a wheat allergy is suspected, swift consult and diagnosis by an allergist is recommended. Blood tests are used to confirm the diagnosis.
Wheat Allergy Symptoms:
- Hives or skin rash
- Nausea, stomach cramps, indigestion, vomiting or diarrhea
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Anaphylaxis(less common), a potentially life-threatening reaction that can impair breathing and send the body into shock
Potential Wheat Allergy Triggers:
- Bread, pasta or any other food containing wheat
- Non-food items with wheat-based ingredients, such as Play-Doh, cosmetics or bath products
Wheat Allergy Management and Treatment:
- Avoid foods and other products that trigger symptoms.
- Control some symptoms with antihistamines and corticosteroids.
- Use epinephrine(adrenaline), available by prescription, to reverse anaphylactic symptoms.
Wheat is one of the 8 allergens that the FDA requires to be clearly labeled on the packaging, according to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004. If a food product contains any of the following, it must be labeled clearly on the packaging:
- crustacean shellfish
- tree nuts
Gluten-free foods are not always safe for those with wheat allergy. Consult your physician before embarking on any diet plan.
Are gluten-free foods 100% free of gluten?
The FDA allows food manufacturers to label their products “gluten-free” if the product contains 20 parts per million( 20ppm) or less of gluten. Use of gluten-free labeling is voluntary, so not all products that meet this standard are labeled as such. This rule applies to all imported foods as well.
What is cross-contamination?
According to the FDA website, “gluten cross-contact generally refers to the unavoidable presence of gluten in a food due to contact with a gluten-containing food.” From traditional grain farming practices to a shared kitchen, the risk of cross-contamination is everywhere.
So just how much of a risk is it?
Depends entirely on your own personal tolerance for gluten. Those with celiac cannot tolerate any cross contamination. They require dedicated gluten-free kitchens, very careful food choices, and often a little bit of trust. The slang term “glutened” is used for when one inadvertently ingests gluten and becomes ill. “Dude, I got glutened! I ate the fries at Joe’s party, and I was in the bathroom all night.”
Many people with gluten sensitivity can eat gluten-free foods just about anywhere, as they can tolerate varying levels of cross-contamination. However, what’s most important, is to know your own level of tolerance for gluten, as well as your tolerance for risk. It’s a big, delicious world out there, and there’s plenty of food for the gluten-avoiding crowd. Just be educated, make smart choices, and eat your veggies!
I’m new to gluten free – where should I start?
So, you’ve gone gluten free. Whether it’s medically necessary or by choice, it’s a daunting task. But all is not lost. No need to bid farewell to fluffy cakes, chewy cookies, waffles, pancakes and other beautifully flour-laced delicacies, because these days, there’s a gluten-free option for almost every vice. Just be sure to eat your fruits and veggies. Although eating gluten-free will surely help you to feel better, a diet based too heavily on rice-based breads and treats is far from healthy. A great place to start is by reading our Frequently Asked Questions FAQ to learn important definitions used in this article.
Let’s start by determining the basics of what you can and cannot eat.
First, a list of foods that commonly contain gluten:
Most other baked goods and pastries
Second, a list of foods and grains that are inherently gluten free:
Meat and poultry
Fish and seafood
Beans, legumes, and nuts
Buckwheat groats (also known as kasha)
You will be relieved to know that most yogurts, ice cream, and other dairy products are naturally gluten free. You should always double-check the ingredients before consuming, however, as there can be gluten lurking in both additives and ingredients. More information on that below. If you are sensitive to both gluten and dairy, your diet requires a little more thought and research. But all is not lost. There are some delectable gluten-free and dairy-free foods and baked goods available right here in Connecticut that can satisfy even the most discerning gluten-free foodie. Our restaurant database and blog provide more information on where gluten and dairy-free options are available.
Those afflicted with celiac disease cannot tolerate cross-contamination, meaning they cannot safely ingest tiny amounts of gluten. Their foods must be prepared in dedicated gluten-free kitchens and facilities. Regardless of your particular gluten sensitivity or requirements, if you are concerned about cross-contamination, due to preparation, processing and/or transport, only purchase those that are tested for the presence of gluten, and contain less than 20 parts per million(.02%). According to the FDA, an item is considered gluten free if it meets this gluten level of 20 ppm or less. (celiac.com)
Side Dishes and starches that are usually gluten-free:
Plain white rice
Rice stick noodles from an Asian grocery
Bush’s vegetarian baked beans
Plain canned or dried beans
Popcorn, Nuts and Chips
All nuts are inherently gluten-free, and a healthy way to eat protein. So go ahead and indulge in sensible servings of these deliciously satisfying unsaturated fats. Nut butters and spreads (hello, Nutella) are gluten-free as well, but always check ingredients, just to be certain. Popcorn is gluten-free. It’s healthiest to pop it the old fashioned way on the stove, but store-bought or microwave style work. Again, check for additives. Tortilla chips and salsa are nearly always gluten-free, and a go-to party snack for all types of gluten-free eaters. If you can access the chip bag to check ingredients, it can’t hurt to take a peek. The same goes with potato chips.
Sugar is gluten-free. So jelly beans, lollipops, Nerds, Starburst, and similar sugary treats are always ok. They’re addictive and will rot your teeth, but they won’t cause any gluten-consuming symptoms. Chocolate is also gluten-free, but, as always, check the label, just to be sure. Healthy Fact: Given the choice, chocolate is preferred by most dentists, as it rinses off the teeth faster.
Gluten Free Cereals
All varieties of Chex cereal (box is labeled gluten-free)
Stop and Shop generic chex cereal (Box is also labeled Gluten-Free)
Gluten Free Rice Krispies
Gluten-free Cornflakes (health food section)
Cheerios (Controversial; don’t eat Cheerios unless you can tolerate cross contamination above 20 ppm.)
Oatmeal (must be labeled gluten-free)
Foods and additives that contain gluten:
hydrolyzed wheat protein,
Malted barley flour
Modified food starch
Varieties and derivatives of wheat such as:
KAMUT® khorasan wheat
Non-Edible Items That May Contain Gluten
Stamps & envelopes
Hairspray & Shampoo
Medications & Vitamins
For those who can tolerate some cross-contamination, dissecting the package labels of seemingly gluten-free snacks and cereals may not always be necessary. For others, it may be critical. It can take a while to fully understand your own tolerance for gluten-containing ingredients and cross-contamination. But it won’t take long to notice how much better you feel after you’ve kicked gluten to the curb.
For a comprehensive list of foods and additives that may contain gluten: http://www.celiac.com/articles/182/1/Unsafe-Gluten-Free-Food-List-Unsafe-Ingredients/Page1.html