Thursday, August 20, 2009

Can I Have Bread on a Gluten Free Diet?

I just came from a visit to my doctor for long-time abdominal bloating and frequent loose stools. He thinks I may have an allergy to gluten. I know gluten is in wheat, and my problem is I love to have toast for breakfast. I went on the wheat-free diet once before and it did help a lot, but I don't want to live without my toast... Is there any kind of bread I can have? Melissa R.

Dear Melissa,

It certainly sounds like you may have a gluten allergy (a severe reaction to the protein present in wheat and some other grains), especially because when you stopped eating it, your symptoms improved.

There are many people with a diagnosable gluten allergy, known as celiac sprue. Reliable information can be found on the website of the Celiac Sprue Association here: Since a great number of people suffer from this condition, as well as others who find they simply feel better in some way when they avoid gluten, there are thousands of gluten free products on the market today, including breads! The most popular is potato bread which can be found in virtually any grocery store.
Look for gluten free breads, crackers, pastas, cookies, and other products in the "health food" aisle of your favorite grocery store and you'll be pleasantly surprised at the variety.

Be sure to note, as the Celiac Sprue site informs you, there are grains other than "wheat" that should be avoided, including other forms of wheat (such as cous cous, for instance) that we don't often recognize as a wheat product. In this way you can be sure that you are really avoiding all sources of gluten while you test this diet.

By the way, some people have strong reactions to even a tiny amount of gluten while others can tolerate some in small amounts. After a month on a gluten free diet you may want to experiment, adding back a little of some gluten-containing products to see what works for you. As you might imagine, dining out can be extremely difficult when you don't know what's in the foods you're ordering (for instance, people don't generally think about the fact that flour is used in making beef gravy). Knowing that you might tolerate a small amount of gluten--if that is the case for you--will give you the freedom to enjoy dining away from home without fearing the return of your abdominal symptoms.

The multitude of products on the market today thankfully make it much easier to follow this diet restriction than it ever was in the past.

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