Benefits of a Gluten-free diet

Gluten free is all the buzz… have you heard?

For many of us, bread and crackers and all-things-grain fall into the category of “comfort food.”  These foods are staples of the American diet yet, for many, eating these foods causes some serious and uncomfortable symptoms like headaches, respiratory distress, low energy, bloating and digestive upset, and depression.  If you are one of the millions of American’s suffering from gluten intolerance or celiac disease, you know what I’m talking about and it is not any fun.

Without inundating you with all the scientific explanations for this, what I want you to understand is that gluten is a type of protein present in wheat, barley, rye and other grains. It is a component in the majority of breads and cereals, crackers and pastas on the market.  Thought to affect as many as one third of Americans, symptoms of gluten intolerance vary in degree but are very real.  The bottom line is, you know your body best and you know how you feel when you eat gluten-containing foods.  For example, do you feel sluggish or bloated after eating a slice of pizza or plate of pasta?  If so, you may be sensitive to gluten and/or dairy.  Gluten also promotes inflammation in the body, so some people experience body aches and pains after ingesting gluten.

While the process of removing gluten from the diet may prove difficult for some people because of emotional attachments to gluten-containing foods such as breads and pies and cakes and cookies, the benefits are profound.   Some of the benefits my patients report after removing gluten from their diet include: increased energy, mental clarity and improved focus, weight loss, regular bowel movements, eradication of heart burn, greatly reduced seasonal allergies, normalizing of thyroid function, and reduced joint pain and stiffness.

The good news is, as more and more people are recognizing the benefits of a gluten-free diet, it’s becoming increasingly easy to find gluten-free options in the grocery store and online.  Some of my personal favorites are: Rudy’s breads and muffins, Mary’s Gone Crackers, and teff tortillas for breakfast burritos.  Yum!

I also want to share a few of my favorite local gluten free bakery and restaurant guides. We are lucky to live in a city with so many resources for healthy, gluten-free eating! 

New Cascadia Traditional Bakery for bakery goods, lunch

Gluten Free Gem Bakery offers counter service, local stores in Portland

Cravin‘ Raven organic, no processed sugar

Crave Bake Shop winner of Cupcake Wars; sweets

Tula Gluten-Free Bakery bakery goods, lunch; allergen friendly

Petunia‘s Pies and Pastries PSU Saturday Farmer‘s Market; vegan desserts

Check out Gluten Free Portland for a comprehensive restaurant listing and review.  Gluten Free PDX also offers a useful listing of restaurants by neighborhood. 

I personally recommend Jade Bistro, Café Rio, Abby’s Table, Andina, Blossoming Lotus, Prasad, Seres, Vita Café, GF Chef  (GF foodcart on SE 82nd), and Cruise-In Country Diner. If you are looking for something more “mainstream,” the following restaurants all offer gluten-free options on their menus: McMenamen’s (GF buns), Corbett and Hawthorne Fish House, Hopworks, Dick’s Kitchen, PF Changs, Pastini, Outback Steakhouse, Subway.

If you want to read more about gluten intolerance and how removing gluten from your diet may be beneficial, there are many books and videos available on the subject.  Here are a few good ones which specifically address gluten intolerance and celiac disease in children:

•Mommy, What Is Celiac Disease? Katie Chalmers

•Gluten-Free Friends: An Activity Book for Kids Nancy Patin Falini

•The GF Kid: A Celiac Kid Survival Guide Danna Korn

•Eating Gluten Free With Emily Bonnie Kruszka

•Cilie Yack is Under Attack: a Story About a Boy with Celiac Disease Caryn Talty

•No More Tummy Aches and Cupcakes Jax Peter Lowell

•R.O.C.K – Raising Our Celiac Kids support group

•GF summer camps

I also like this practical guide – Gluten Free for Dummies –  from trusted author Danna Korn, who provides some tried and true tips for making the transition to a gluten-free lifestyle.  This guide includes some great recipes, as well as some solid advice on raising gluten-free children. 

Until next time, here’s to healthy eating!


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