Is Gluten-free the way to be?

Gluten-free diets seem to be increasingly common these days. Even the corner grocery stores carry products with gluten-free labels. But some people are still uncertain about what being gluten-free means, and if it is the right diet choice for them.

According to the Gluten Intolerance School's website, gluten can be best described as a protein that is found in grains such as barley and wheat. Gluten is in foods, such as pastas and breads.

When people who are gluten-intolerant eat foods containing gluten, they suffer from a range of symptoms that vary from person to person. Some of these symptoms include bloating, constipation, arthritis, depression, anxiety, irritability, diarrhea, fatigue, headaches, migraines, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and other symptoms. People who have extreme sensitivity to gluten have to be cautious when dining out, as gluten can appear in unexpected food items, such as salad dressings and sauces.

There are people who choose to live gluten-free, but others are forced into changing their habits for medical reasons.

Santa Monica College nutrition professor and registered dietitian Dona-Rae Richwine has been living a gluten-free lifestyle for the last 10 years. She was forced into the lifestyle for medical reasons after living three years with an itchy rash she developed upon eating foods containing gluten.

“It's not difficult, but the biggest drawback is you can’t fall back on the gluten-free products," says Richwine. "If you really want to be gluten-free, you really have to do a lot of your own cooking."

Richwine does not think it is a good idea to live gluten-free unless it is medically necessary.

“Unless it’s known that you’re allergic or have intolerance, there’s no reason or no known benefit to being gluten-free," she says. "It’s a nutrient. And just like all trends, people are looking for some kind of quick fix, or way to feel better."

For those looking for a local place to shop gluten-free, Whole Foods in Santa Monica on Montana Avenue has a downloadable list available online of all gluten-free products available. It includes a broad spectrum of items such as baby food items, baked goods, candies, beverages, and even bar soaps.

SMC's food court is also getting in on the gluten-free action.

“There have been more [gluten-free] grain-type products available [such as] cookies, breads, pastas, and tortillas,” says Beth Kimball, who works at the Campus Kitchen in the cafeteria.

SMC film student Laine Neil has been practicing a gluten-free diet for the past three months. While Neil is able to find gluten-free options available in the cafeteria, she does wish there were more options available.

Neil says she would appreciate “gluten-free bread options, or even if they just had labels to make it easier to differentiate.”

Neil started this diet when she began reading health books in hopes of finding a cure to clear her skin.

After reading into the positive effects of a gluten-free lifestyle, she decided to give it a try.

“In two weeks, my skin was already clearing up," she says. "It was the only thing I changed, so I decided to stick with it.”

Eva UnderwoodComment