Gluten, friend or foe?

Gluten free diet

Gluten has become a household name everywhere you look. It’s typically a hot topic of discussion around the dinner table, in the news and even at the local market.

More often than not, the same question is always asked — what is gluten?

It’s a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and oats. You may have eaten gluten this morning with a bowl of cereal, oatmeal or toast. Though it’s not visible, the protein can cause more harm than good to individuals with a sensitivity.

Gluten can affect the stomach, skin and even the brain. When consumed, the protein is quick to attack the small intestines, making it uncomfortable to process food. In turn, this makes it difficult for people to get the nutrients they need.

Many individuals who have a gluten sensitivity are usually plagued with:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Chronic pain
  • Anemia
  • Neuropathy
  • Autoimmune disease (Celiac disease)

Patients living with neuropathy or nerve pain are encouraged to maintain a gluten-free diet. This is to help avoid and minimize the tingling sensations, numbness or burning in the hands and feet as a result of gluten attacking the nervous system.

If you are suffering from chronic nerve pain, please consider avoiding some of the following:

  • Pastas
  • Crackers

Some alternatives may include edamame or sweet potato crackers.

  • Cereals (look for gluten-free)
  • Wheat (starch, bran, germ)
  • Barley
  • Grains
  • Salad dressings*
  • Seasonings and spices*

*Remember to always check the ingredient labels. Not all dressings or spices may contain gluten.

You may want to try these healthy snacks and foods that are gluten-free:

  • Legumes
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Potatoes
  • Nuts

This may come as a surprise, but some toothpastes carry the gluten protein. Be sure to read the ingredient labels not only on your foods, but your toothpaste the next time you’re at the market.

If you’re not sure if your nerve pain is related to a gluten sensitivity, please reach out to your physician. It’s common for many people to go about their days consuming the foods they enjoy without the knowledge of how it affects their health. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. 

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