Gluten-free became a dietary buzzword not long ago, and now there are entire aisles at the grocery store for products without gluten. Like any food fad, it can be confusing to know whether going gluten-free is something you really need to do. If you have diabetes the answer could be “yes.”
After reading the information below, if you decide to go gluten-free or limit the gluten you eat, it’s a good idea to use CGM. What is CGM? It stands for continuous glucose monitoring. Making a significant change in your diet will almost always impact your glucose levels, so careful monitoring is needed, particularly when you begin eating gluten-free.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein that is present in various grains including wheat, barley, triticale and rye. Because these grains are a key ingredient for many foods, gluten can be in a wide variety of items beyond bread. Even liquids like beer, soy sauce and salad dressing can contain gluten.
The vast majority of people have no problem processing gluten. However, for people who suffer from celiac disease, even a small serving can cause serious problems.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that is genetically inherited. Anytime gluten is consumed, inflammation occurs and the small intestines are attacked by the immune system. This can cause long-term damage and inhibits nutrient absorption. When gluten is consumed the person can experience a number of symptoms that can range from mild to severe. Symptoms include:
- · Abdominal pain
- · Diarrhea
- · Fatigue
- · Constipation
- · Anemia
- · Weight loss
- · Joint pain
Currently there is no cure for celiac disease. It can only be managed by following a gluten-free diet that eliminates all gluten.
The Connection Between Celiac Disease and Diabetes
Many people believe they need to eliminate gluten for their health. In actuality only one percent of the general population has celiac disease. However, people with type 1 diabetes have a much higher likelihood of developing celiac disease. On average 10% of those with type 1 diabetes also have celiac disease. This has led doctors to theorize that there is a genetic link between the two.
Because gluten is often found in high-carb foods that raise blood sugar levels, it’s a good idea for people with type 1 diabetes to limit their intake or go gluten-free all together.
Making the Switch to a Gluten-Free Diet
Going gluten-free is easier than ever thanks to clear labeling and a growing interest in food products without gluten. You can find a gluten-free substitute for just about anything. There are also many whole foods that don’t have gluten and support a healthy diet for people with diabetes.
Whole foods without gluten include:
- · Potatoes – russet and sweet
- · Quinoa
- · Wild rice
- · Legumes
- · Brown rice
- · Soy
- · Corn
- · Buckwheat
- · Polenta
- · Flax
- · Milk
- · Yogurt
- · Uncontaminated oats
- · Fruits
- · Vegetables
There are a few things to watch out for when you’re buying gluten-free products. Often they have a large amount of salt and sugar, which definitely isn’t compatible with a diabetic diet. They also tend to be high in carbs and low in fiber. That combination could make blood sugar levels spike.
Reading the ingredients and nutritional label is going to become a regular thing. This is the only way to make sure foods don’t contain gluten and have vital nutrients.
A healthy breakfast is the most important part of a diabetic diet, with or without gluten. Eating early in the morning helps to regulate blood sugar and limits the possibility of spikes and drops throughout the day. Luckily, there are plenty of delicious, nutritious options for diabetics that are going gluten-free. We suggest that you create a breakfast meal plan that includes a piece of fruit, milk, nuts and gluten-free oats.
Of course, it’s always a good idea to discuss dietary changes with you doctor first. They can test your blood to see if you have biomarkers for celiac disease. This will tell you whether you need to go gluten-free or simply limit your gluten intake.