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If you’ve been told you need to maintain a gluten-free diet, you’ve probably been diagnosed with celiac disease. Celiac disease is characterized by a dangerous reaction in the immune system and digestive system when your body detects the presence of gluten. Gluten is a protein found in bread, pasta, cereals, wheat, barley, rye, and basically all foods in the grains part of the food guide pyramid. When you have celiac disease, your body can’t handle the presence of gluten, which spurs a reaction in the digestive system and affects your body’s ability to absorb all nutrients. This reaction can be extremely detrimental to your health, affecting the ability of your nervous system and all other organs to interact without the nourishment they need. Your immune system breaks down, and you could get very sick. It’s a huge hassle for just eating a bit of bread, but it’s never worth the risk. If you have celiac disease, you have to be extremely careful not to ingest any foods that contain glutens.

Your healthcare provider will develop an in-depth plan for your diet to avoid glutens. You might be surprised when you realize how many gluten-free options there really are. Any bread item that you crave probably has a gluten-free alternative—from cookies to pizzas. Many gluten-free alternatives are available at the grocery store, but you might need to seek out health food stores to get the greatest variety of gluten-free choices.

If you’re gluten-free, you might be a bit confused about how you can get a truly balanced and healthy diet without anything from the fundamental bottom of the great food guide pyramid. While the food guide pyramid is an excellent guide in the way to good health, it’s not a strict guideline that must be followed. Whole grains are important sources of B vitamins, minerals and fiber, but you can find these nutrients elsewhere, and in a supplement. The grain group is recommended because complex carbohydrates are the best long-term source of energy for your body. However, you can also get complex carbohydrates from legumes, vegetables and beans. The gluten-free alternatives you’ll become accustomed to and learn to love will also be an excellent source of complex carbohydrates and energy for you. Corn and hominy based foods like all-corn tortillas and all-corn chips and hominy cereals are good sources of energy and nutrients. You can use gluten-free flour to bake any of your favorite treats.

When searching out gluten-free alternatives, or any foods, you’ll need to be an extremely careful label reader. All products must say “gluten-free.” If a product contains wheat or any of the gluten-containing forbidden ingredients, stay away. Professionals haven’t decided if oats contain glutens, but that really means you should avoid all oats, too. As a gluten-free eater, you might even need to contact manufacturers if you aren’t sure about the ingredients in a certain product. Most manufacturers will be happy to inform you about the ingredients of their products, and provide reliable information. If contacting the manufacturer seems like too much of a hassle, remember that it’s worth it. You’re always better safe and well-informed than unsure and unsafe.

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