It seems as if everyone is going gluten-free lately; but do we really know what “gluten-free” means? To begin understanding what a gluten-free diet is, we need to know what products gluten is commonly found in. Gluten is found in grains such as rye, barley and wheat. The gluten-free diet is a huge lifestyle change and may take a little while to get used to. At first, it may be frustrating because it will feel as if there are too many restrictions. However, it could come to you as a surprise when you find out that a lot of specialty stores now sell gluten-free products such as breads and pastas.

A gluten-free diet is a common treatment for celiac disease. Celiac disease is when gluten is consumed and then leads to damage in the small intestine. It affects every 1 out of 100 people worldwide. However, some people have symptoms of celiac disease whenever they eat gluten but it may not have celiac disease. This is called non-celiac gluten sensitivity and these people must follow a strict gluten-free diet, as well.

When considering going gluten-free, it is important to consult with your doctor first and see if they believe this lifestyle is a fit for you. If your doctor agrees that this is the right fit for you, it’s time to gain some knowledge on the foods you are and aren’t allowed to consume. As mentioned earlier, stay away from wheat, rye and barley. Another product that you should try and stay away from is flour. Labels are your best friend. If it isn’t labeled “gluten-free,” stay clear of beer, breads, cakes, candies, pastas, salad dressings, seasoned snacks like tortilla chips, just to name a few items to steer clear of. It may seem overwhelming, but soon you will find many substitutes for your favorite foods. On the other side there are many foods that you are allowed to eat. For instance, beans, fresh eggs, fruits, vegetables, quinoa, rice, soy and much more.

Since you may be missing out on some key vitamins and nutrients, it is important to intake vitamins to keep healthy. You may want to take vitamins like iron, calcium, fiber or riboflavin which should also be discussed with your doctor. Many people are not aware that some medicines and vitamins aren’t gluten-free. It is essential that you read the labels on everything to guarantee that what you are intaking is gluten-free. With patience and creativity, you will start to see that most foods you are intaking already are gluten-free and substitutes can be easily made if they aren’t!