Gluten is the naturally occurring protein found in wheat, barley, rye and similar grains like triticale, a cross between wheat and rye. The typical American pantry is loaded with foods that contain gluten, including breads, cereals, pastas, wheat flour and beer. Individuals typically avoid gluten because they have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, or as part of a weight-loss diet.
Unfortunately, being an exceptionally sturdy protein, gluten is also very difficult to digest. For some people, this difficulty leads to a variety of problems. Extreme sensitivity to gluten manifests in celiac disease, a type of autoimmune disorder in which the immune system responds to gluten by damaging the small intestine. Immediate, acute symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, and cramping and bloating; more subtle or chronic symptoms include weight loss, irritability (especially in children), depression, and skin problems such as dermatitis and eczema.
Full-blown celiac disease affects an estimated 1 in every 133 people. More common is gluten intolerance, a broad term that includes a wide range of sensitivity and subtle symptoms, from weakness and fatigue to a general lack of well-being. Gluten intolerance, or what's now sometimes called non-celiac gluten sensitivity, may affect as many as 1 in 7 people.
Whether you’re celiac or wheat-sensitive, it's easy to eat clean and gluten-free with one of our one- or two-week meal plans that are completely wheat-free.