Gluten Free Diet
Very simply, a gluten- free diet is a lifestyle change that omits the protein gluten which occurs naturally in specific grains including wheat, barley and rye. The primary reason for going on a gluten-free diet is in order to treat celiac disease. Actually caused by gluten, celiac disease occurs when the lining of the small intestine is damaged, which prevents the body from absorbing the nutrients found in the foods we eat.
A gluten-free diet helps those who suffer from celiac disease control the signs and symptoms of this disease and to prevent life threatening complications. The symptoms of gluten sensitivity can resemble some of the symptoms of GERD. These shared symptoms include difficulty in swallowing as well as vomiting. Because of the similarities, some experts believe that gluten intolerance may be a possible cause of GERD or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease for some people.
For an article about the spectrum of gluten intolerance, see here.
The Case for Linking GERD and Gluten
For some GERD sufferers a gluten-free diet may help reduce GERD symptoms. There was a study done in Italy which used participants who were known to be intolerant to gluten and had acid reflux and another set of participants who had acid reflux with no established gluten intolerance. The acid reflux was treated equally in all participants with the use of proton-pump inhibitors. This treatment is known to decrease acid production.
Researchers found that those on gluten-free diets responded better to the medication than those on normal diets. Those eating gluten-free foods also had fewer instances of GERD recurrence. Because of these results, it was concluded that a gluten-free diet could likely help those GERD sufferers with celiac disease reduce their symptoms. The question was raised if GERD sufferers who had no known gluten intolerance would also benefit from increased success if they also cut out gluten.
There are no specific answers to this question to date. Some experts feel there is no tie between gluten and GERD, believing that esophageal symptoms like acid reflux are just by-products of celiac disease and any benefits resulting from a gluten-free diet is probably coincidental.
Gluten Free Diet
If you want to try removing gluten from your diet, a test of about six weeks will be enough time to see if this lifestyle change makes any difference in your GERD symptoms or the way you feel.
A gluten-free diet means that you have to stay away from all foods and food products made with wheat, barley and rye. But there are other grains that you also have to avoid. The complete list includes:
- Wheat, including spelt
- Graham flour
- Matzo meal
You will have to read labels, search the internet and be vigilant in searching out products that are gluten-free. Most cereals and pastas contain gluten, as do a great deal of our processed foods. You can’t have wheat flour in anything, but you can use potato, buckwheat, soy, corn and quinoa flour in breads, pastas, and more.
Readymade gluten-free breads and other products are often available in the grocery stores today. You will just have to search out and find those products that are truly gluten-free. Be careful and check labels. Just because the package says potato rolls, it doesn’t mean it was made without one of the restricted grains.
While most GERD diets don’t restrict the use of the grains listed above, you can test your reaction to a gluten-free diet and check your body’s reaction.
Typical GERD Dietary Restrictions
Typical GERD diet suggestions include the avoidance of citrus fruits and juices, fatty foods, spicy foods and other acidic foods like tomatoes, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate and mint. While adding gluten-free restriction to your diet may be frustrating at first, like any diet you will learn to pick and choose the things that you like to eat and maybe discover a few new favorites.
Other Hints for a Gluten-Free Diet
Oats and other grains can be contaminated with other grains like wheat, in the field when the grains are growing and during different stages of processing. There has been no determination if oats are safe for those with celiac disease although most doctors will recommend the avoidance of oats unless the label specifies gluten-free. Science has not determined if pure oat products are truly safe.
Other products can contain gluten, including
- Malt flavoring and many additional food additives like modified food starch contains gluten.
- Some cosmetics including lip balms or lipstick
- Vitamins and Medications can contain gluten
- Toothpaste also may have gluten
The list of grains and other starches that are allowed include the following:
- Pure corn tortillas
- Hominy grits
- rice, soy, corn, potato, and bean flour
It is important to check the label for assurance that the product is truly gluten-free as these grains, starches and flours can be mixed with gluten during processing.