“Gluten intolerance”, “Gluten allergy”, “Celiac”, and “gluten sensitive”, you’ve probably heard all of these before but what do these terms mean, and what’s the difference?
Although the majority of people digest and process gluten with no problem, about 6% of the US population has some form of intolerance to gluten. And by intolerance, we mean that the body has an adverse immune response when gluten is ingested. But just like everything else, no body is the same, and everyone who lives with gluten intolerance experiences different levels of sensitivity.
We are going to demystify and de-stigmatize these different levels of gluten intolerance, and offer some tips to be more accommodating to gluten intolerant guests and people in your life.
One of the most severe forms of this immune response is Celiac disease. Effecting only about 1% of the population, symptoms of Celiac disease can be very difficult to manage without taking steps to minimize exposure to gluten. Most symptoms stem outwardly from an immune response that causes the body to attack the digestive tract when gluten has been ingested. This causes a cascading set of symptoms in other bodily symptoms such as:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Joint and muscle pain
- Diarrhea and constipation
The second most severe form of Gluten sensitivity is Gluten Ataxia. Like Celiac disease, this is also an immune response that causes the body to attack your brain an neurological system when gluten is ingested. Although Gluten Ataxia is pretty rare, it is nonetheless very serious.
For some people, the immune response may not be as strong and aggressive. These people are considered to be “gluten intolerant”. Symptoms may not be as severe, and they may not be as sensitive to trace amounts of gluten as those with Celiac would be. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect their day-to-day lives, and that they shouldn’t still be careful. For people with gluten intolerance, symptoms might include:
- Bloating or stomach pain
- Diarrhea and constipation
- Headaches or brain fog
- Depression and anxiety
Last but not least, some people may not be sensitive to gluten specifically, but they could be allergic to wheat. This is more commonly seen in children under the age of 12, and only about 35% of children don’t grow out of the allergy as they get older. A wheat allergy causes symptoms similar to other allergic reactions, such as:
- Skin rashes
- digestive issues
- Nasal congestion and Anaphylaxis
All that being said, gluten sensitivity is a serious condition that shouldn’t be taken lightly. It is important to understand that gluten-sensitive people do not have a choice in how their body decides to respond, and they have every reason to be cautious and proactive when it comes to what they eat when they are not cooking for themselves. Gluten is a sneaky food, that can often hide in unexpected places, such as soy sauce, deli meats, and even some flavored potato chips.
If you have a gluten-sensitive person in your life, you’re likely familiar with the steps you should take to prevent gluten contamination between foods. If you don’t, and accommodating a gluten intolerant guest is new to you, some of our top recommendations would be:
- use separate, clean utensils when preparing or serving gluten-free foods
- use separate serving dishes for gluten-free foods
- substiture gluten-free ingredients to modify a recipe when needed. there are tons of amazing options available today.
- Cook from scratch when possible
- Read the ingredient labels thoroughly
- Talk to the gluten-sensitive person to understand what their preferences are and learn from their experiences directly.
A Word From IG
At IG, we understand how important it is for our gluten-free customers to have options, and to trust the food that they buy is truly gluten-free if it’s labeled that way. We are strong supporters of our gluten-free community in Tampa, and we work diligently to provide a wide variety of Gluten free baked goods and dishes. Our recipes are the result of years of trial and error because we believe that just because a cupcake is gluten-free, that doesn’t mean it can’t still be delicious. Everyone deserves to eat what they love, and love what they eat.