Food for Thought: Gloomy about gluten-free diets

It's hard for most people to imagine what life would be like if they couldn't eat bread, cake, crackers, pizza, cookies or pasta. All these items contain a common ingredient: gluten. Gluten is found in so many of the foods we eat on a regular basis that the changes we would have to make to cut gluten out of our diet would be extremely challenging. This is the challenge that a lot of people are faced with when they are diagnosed with a gluten allergy or intolerance. A total restructuring of their diet must be implemented to make sure they don't consume anything containing gluten. This means no wheat, rye, barley, oats or spelt. Easy enough, right? Not so. You'd be surprised how often one of these ingredients appears in product labels and recipes. Some of the very basic staples in a daily diet need to be drastically altered or excluded, including sandwiches, toast, cookies, muffins, cakes, pastas and pastries.

Most people who have an allergy or intolerance to gluten have no idea and are never diagnosed with the condition. The symptoms can be as seemingly non-threatening as a rash (eczema) or upset stomach. This is why it is very important to get yourself tested for a gluten allergy/intolerance by your doctor if you are noticing any inexplicable reactions.

It can be quite difficult for someone who has been diagnosed with a gluten allergy or intolerance to eat out of the house. Restaurant going poses the hassle of consulting the kitchen staff ahead of time to make sure they are aware of the dietary restrictions and there is always a concern that the food was somehow contaminated with gluten. Eating at a friend's house can be embarrassing to a person who can't eat gluten while they must make sure they know what is in every item of food. Even if the host did not use any obvious gluten containing ingredients, there is still a chance that they have overlooked something with traces of gluten.

If you do decide to host a dinner for someone who needs a gluten free meal, make sure you check through all ingredients before you serve it to them. If you are unsure of an ingredient, don't use it! It's better to be safe than sorry. Also, check to see the severity of the allergy/intolerance. Some people are able to eat small traces of gluten, while others cannot eat anything that may have even come in contact with a gluten source. For these serious gluten free diets, the smallest amount of gluten consumed by a person could be fatal. This is why it is so important to understand the potential reactions your guest may experience before you cook for them.

To serve someone a gluten free meal can actually be quite easy. There are gluten free breads, cakes and pastas available at most grocery stores. Gluten free cookie and cake recipes can be found online, and there are tons of packed items that guarantee that they are gluten free.

With these alternative foods, it's quite feasible for a gluten free diet to include the foods people love and crave.