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Wheat is a staple in many parts of India where chapatis, parathas, churma, purisparota and other wheat preparations are consumed daily.

However, foods like wheat, barley and rye contain a protein called gluten and some people may have (or may develop) a gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance.

In people with gluten sensitivity—including people with wheat allergy and celiac disease (an autoimmune condition in which an allergic reaction to gluten damages the inner lining of the small intestine)—eating gluten can cause severe discomfort. (Read more: Anti-gliadin antibodies test for gluten sensitivity)

The good news is that there are many gluten-free foods available across India (hint: replace wheat with amaranth or chaulai, buckwheat or kuttu ka atta, or sorghum or jowar). And if you have gluten sensitivity, you can put together a delicious plate of food devoid of this protein with relative ease. Read this article to know more about gluten and gluten-free foods.

  1. What is gluten?
  2. Symptoms of wheat allergy versus celiac disease
  3. Symptoms of celiac disease
  4. Non celiac gluten sensitivity
  5. Easily available gluten free foods
  6. Benefits of gluten free foods
  7. Foods to avoid in gluten sensitivity and gluten intolerance
  8. Takeaway
Doctors for Gluten and Gluten-Free Foods

Gluten is a type of protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. It is gluten that helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together.

Some people, however, may face various health problems including problems with digestion upon wheat consumption. This could be the result of an underlying condition like gluten sensitivity, wheat allergy or celiac disease.

Wheat allergy is a condition in which the body has an immune response to wheat proteins including gluten but not limited to it. A person with a wheat allergy may or may not be allergic to other grains such as rye and barley. Symptoms range from mild to life-threatening and may start to show immediately after consumption or up to two hours after eating wheat or wheat products. The symptoms may include:

Celiac disease is a condition that can have long-term implications for health, including permanent intestinal damage. It refers to an autoimmune disorder in which the body reacts abnormally to gluten (present in wheat, barley, rye). The small intestine has finger-like projections called villi all along its length. These projections increase the surface area of our small intestines and help in the proper absorption of food. In people with celiac disease, consumption of gluten destroys these villi that can potentially lead to malabsorption and malnutrition. Symptoms may vary in children and adults. Those in children include: 

​Adults with celiac disease show the following symptoms: 

There are people who test negative for both wheat allergy and celiac disease but still show signs of gluten sensitivity. The exact biological cause for this is unknown. The most common symptoms in these people are: 

  • Headache and brain fog
  • Fatigue 
  • Abdominal pain and gas

If you have one of these conditions, you may feel short of choices in terms of things to eat. Below are foods that you can consume that are healthy, readily available and easy on the palate:

  • Corn: Corn or maize can be cooked in multiple ways. Not only is it extremely rich in antioxidants like zeaxanthin and lutein, but it also contains lots of fibre. Corn is among the most popular gluten-free grains available in the market.
  • Oats: Even though a small proportion of people with celiac disease may be sensitive to avenin (a protein found in oats), it is a popular gluten free-option that suits the majority of the population. Oats also naturally help in regulating blood sugar levels due to the presence of a component called beta-glucan.
  • Quinoa: One of the healthiest "grains" known, not only is quinoa gluten-free but it is also extremely rich in antioxidants. It is also one of the few plant-based foods that contain all essential amino acids, making it an excellent source of protein.
  • Brown rice: Rice is gluten-free, whether it is white, brown, red or black. However, studies on brown versus white rice show that replacing white rice with brown rice comes with added health benefits. Consumption of brown rice in place of white rice can lead to decreased risks of diabetes, weight gain, and heart disease.
  • Flour and starch: Potatoes and potato flour, corn and corn flour, chickpea flour (besan), soy flour, coconut flour and sabudana (tapioca) flour are very good options that are available for a gluten-free diet.
  • Eggs: All eggs are gluten-free and extremely nutritious. They are a versatile ingredient that can be cooked in many ways and are a rich source of protein.
  • Meat, chicken and fish: All three of these—meat, fish and chicken—are naturally gluten-free. However, one needs to be careful, as battered, crumbed or floured non-vegetarian may contain gluten.
  • Fruits and vegetables: All fruits and vegetables are gluten-free.
  • Dairy: Plain dairy products such as milk, yoghurt, cheese, etc., are a good addition to the diet. At the same time, it is important to read food labels carefully as flavoured variants of the same may contain gluten.
  • Nuts and seed: All nuts and seeds can be consumed as part of a gluten-free diet. They contain important nutrients and are a great source of fibre.

Some benefits of a gluten-free diet are:

  • Relieves digestive symptoms. A gluten-free diet is often taken up by people to treat digestive problems like bloating, gas, diarrhoea or constipation. Studies show that a gluten-free diet can relieve these symptoms. However, it’s important to avoid processed “gluten-free” snacks, as they can quickly add a lot of calories to your diet. 
  • Reduces joint pain. With celiac disease, comes an increased risk of inflammation. This is why joint pain, especially in the knees, back and wrists is a common symptom of celiac disease. A gluten-free diet will help to prevent this type of joint pain.
  • Improves skin. Gluten intolerance can negatively affect your skin. Dermatitis herpetiformis (Duhring's disease), a condition in which the skin blisters, is a manifestation of celiac disease. A gluten-free diet can make the skin more radiant by improving its overall health and while, at the same time, dealing with these problems.
  • May boost energy. If you have celiac disease, switching to a gluten-free diet may help boost your energy levels and stop you from feeling tired and sluggish. This tiredness is usually the result of malnutrition due to damage sustained by the gut.
  • May aid in weight loss. A gluten-free diet eliminates many junk foods that add unnecessary calories to the diet. These foods are often replaced by plenty of indigenous grains and seeds that can be great for weight loss.

Gluten is present in most foods so avoiding it completely may not be impossible. It is, however, possible to reduce the consumption of gluten by replacing the following foods in your diet with gluten-free options:

  • Cereals, unless labelled otherwise
  • Breads
  • Pasta
  • Cakes, pastries, cookies, unless labelled otherwise
  • Soy sauce, teriyaki sauce and dressings may also have added gluten 
  • Beer and other flavoured beverages
Dt. Sonal jain

Dt. Sonal jain

Dietician
5 Years of Experience

Dt. Rajni Sharma

Dt. Rajni Sharma

Dietician
7 Years of Experience

Dt. Neha Suryawanshi

Dt. Neha Suryawanshi

Dietician
10 Years of Experience

Dt. Ayushi Shah

Dt. Ayushi Shah

Dietician
2 Years of Experience

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