Gluten-Friendly Campus

grainsGluten, a word we know but may not understand! Honestly, it can be confusing and somewhat frustrating for those newly diagnosed with a medical condition related to gluten.

What is Gluten? Why do we use Gluten? 

Gluten is the name of a group of proteins that is in wheat, barley and rye. This protein is the stretchy substance that helps bread dough and bread like products to expand and rise. The more the dough is kneaded, the more strands and expansion is developed, the chewier the final product becomes. In addition, the proteins thicken when heated, trapping the carbon dioxide produced by yeast. This helps baked goods to rise more and retain their shape instead of crumbling.

That protein that is reacting in doughs and gluten products is actually called gliadin. If someone is sensitive to the gliadin protein, then it can cause digestive issues in the intestines that could lead to further problems.

Three main reasons people avoid gluten are either they have a wheat allergy, medical conditions that prevents them from eating any gluten containing products or an intolerance to gluten.

Wheat Allergies can be life-threatening and may result from a true wheat allergy much like a nut allergy. Symptoms may be hives, breathing difficulties and digestive problems and anaphylaxis, with sudden and severe reaction. Treatment: follow a strict wheat free diet.

Celiac Disease 

Celiac is a serious auto-immune medical condition that can be difficult to diagnose and is triggered by gluten. This can cause issues in the intestines that can lead to severe medical complications. Celiac Symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, weight loss, headaches, delayed growth, fatigue, gas, failure to thrive in young children, skin rashes, joint pain and numbness. This condition is suggested to affect 1 in every 133 American which is ~1 % of the population, however, many folks go undiagnosed. Treatment: Medications are not available for such conditions but research is underway. Probiotics and a focus on good gut health is a great idea along with a lifelong gluten free diet.

Gluten Intolerance or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) 

Often we assume that people on a gluten free diet are folks following nutritional trends. Recently, I heard that Gluten Sensitivity was “Fake: a made up condition” and I can assure you this is not the case. Gluten intolerance is a real issue and becoming more common. For those that are intolerant or sensitive to the protein in gluten, they can have a reaction after eating or drinking products that contain gluten. NCGS-Symptoms can be different from person to person but may have stomach and intestinal problems, joint pain, fatigue and depression. We see roughly 1 in every 100 people with an intolerance to wheat/gluten. Treatment: gluten free diet

Should I avoid gluten? 

How do you know if you have a sensitivity, allergy or medical condition related to gluten? A thorough diagnosis is based on a combination of blood work, intestinal biopsy, and improvements on a gluten-free diet.

A diagnosis of non-celiac gluten sensitivity is harder to confirm. Individuals who have gluten-related symptoms, but test negative for celiac disease and wheat allergies, may have non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

If you think you may be gluten-sensitive, be sure to first speak with your doctor and learn more about the condition.

To avoid gluten entirely, it is important to seek proper education, talk with your doctor, dietitian, and check food labels and menus for allergen information.

Learning to be gluten free can be overwhelming. Many wheat based foods have unique names and are hidden in unexpected forms. Being safe and choosing the right foods takes practice.

There are some people out there that may follow this plan thinking it can help them lose weight. If this is you, keep this in mind. Gluten free foods are NOT weight loss foods. In fact, many highly processed gluten free foods may be high in sugar, salt and fat. Choose naturally gluten free foods when trying to cut back on added fats and sugars while following a gluten free diet. Know the facts before you choose this lifestyle.

Naturally Occurring Gluten-Free Foods: 

  • Fruits and Vegetables
  • Meat and Poultry
  • Fish and Seafood
  • Dairy, Beans, Nuts and Seeds

Campus Tips: 

We now have a Gluten Friendly Facility at Hulen/ Clement: All-You-Care-to-Eat. This facility provides gluten free pasta, pizza, breads, tortillas and more. Try gluten free breads at SUB: Bistro, The Commons Grillz, Sam’s Place Wall/Gates, and Sam’s Place Murray. Gluten free pizzas take a few minutes longer to prepare than a regular pizza, try ordering a gluten free pizza from your Tapingo® App available at Sam’s Place Murray and The Commons.

Remember to stick to foods such as non-fried rice, corn tortillas, grilled or carved meats without breading, salads and eggs. Asian is often a good choice but watch out for the sauce! Did you know soy sauce is made from fermented wheat? Most Asian sauces have some type of wheat in them or they are made from Soy Sauce. Sweet Chili or Gluten Free Sauces are options on campus.

Students can visit with me, the dietitian for more help on campus.

Websites to Checkout:

Celiac Central

Food Allergy: Wheat Allergy

Beyond Celiac: Facts & Figures

Beyond Celiac

100% gluten-free diet is the only existing treatment for celiac disease today. The celiac disease diagnosis rate may reach 50-60% by 2019, thanks to efforts to raise public awareness of celiac disease. (Source: Datamonitor Group, 2009)

Hospitality Dietitian Mindy Diller, MS, RDN, LD 


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