By: Rachel Sircy
There are a lot of things to beware of when you have celiac disease or a non-celiac gluten intolerance. Label reading becomes a part of your life and you not only have to eat differently, but you have to think in a different way about food in general. It all seems pretty daunting, especially if you’re starting out. I know the feeling of being in a rush to get somewhere and thinking that I need to grab a quick bite to eat only to realize that there is nothing around me that is both quick and safe for me to eat. I have broken down and cried in a few of those situations. In those moments, I start to remember all the fast food places where I used to be able to eat. I start thinking that a drive-through dinner could solve all my problems if only their breaded chicken nuggets weren’t a complete hazard to my health.
It’s easy for those of us with a gluten intolerance to try to find quick fix solutions for a life-long problem, but that usually leads us into the danger zone. In fact, I just read an article about a new sort of pitfall for the gluten intolerant that is out on the market. Allergic Living Magazine published an article that answered some serious questions that I’ve had about some supplements I noticed on the shelves of some of our local health food stores. These supplements claim that they can help break down the string of proteins known as gluten so that people who are sensitive to gluten can digest it. Now, I have run into these supplements here and there for the past three or four years. A few well-meaning people in my life keep trying to get me to take these supplements so that gluten won’t bother me. They seem to think that these supplements work like an epi-pen, so that if I eat gluten I can quickly take a supplement and there won’t be any harmful effects. It’s all seemed pretty sketchy to me from the beginning. Celiac disease is sort of a digestive disease, but in truth, it’s an auto-immune disorder. It’s not that my tummy just isn’t happy when I eat gluten, it’s that my white blood cells think that gluten is poison. The digestive discomfort that occurs when I eat gluten is a result of my own body attacking itself. So, it didn’t make sense to me that a new kind of probiotic could help the root cause of my sickness. Unless these pills could break gluten down into a form that my body wouldn’t recognize as gluten, then their claim meant nothing to me.
As it turns out, my gut feeling (pardon the pun) about these supplements was right. According to Allergic Living’s article, dietary supplements in the United States are not regulated by the FDA. As long as they do not claim to cure any particular illness, they can make any claims that they want. According to a brief interview with Dr. Stefano Guandalini, the medical director of the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, there has been research that proves that the supplements on the market are ineffective for celiac patients. So, while these supplements might provide some benefit for people who may have some digestive discomfort after eating gluten-laden products, they DO NOT make it safe for people with celiac disease to eat gluten.
Keep in mind that there are plenty of things that you can do in a rush to make sure you don’t go hungry. Fruit makes a wonderful snack and there are plenty of gluten free trail mix bars and whole food bars on the market. Keep your pantry stocked with quick, healthy, gluten free snacks and you won’t have to worry about what to eat on the run. And, if you’re craving some of your old favorite snacks, there are some pretty good gluten free substitutes on the market these days. If you can’t seem to find the exact replacement for your favorite cookies, doughnuts or fried chicken, take the opportunity that you now have to find something new, something healthier. Remember, if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.
Suggested reading: Below are the links to the articles that I mentioned in this piece. If you have celiac disease or know someone with a gluten intolerance, they are well worth reading. I truly believe in getting your information from reputable sources. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet (especially by crazy bloggers like me…) Make sure your sources are good ones, backed up by actual medical doctors and dieticians. Happy reading!