Celiac disease is a significant intestinal problem that affects around 1 in 133 people. Sufferers of this disorder often exhibit symptoms of a physical intolerance to gluten after eating foods containing the protein. The high incidence of this disease has led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require that food manufacturers follow strict guidelines when labeling their products as “gluten-free.” While many food companies now offer gluten-free alternatives to popular snacks and meals, making changes in the diet to include whole foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables, can significantly improve the condition. For celiac sufferers, growing a personal vegetable garden can ensure that fresh produce free of gluten-free contaminants is always available.
Gluten is a protein typically found in grain products. Wheat, rye, barley, oats, and triticale and products made with these ingredients all contain this protein. Breads, cakes, pastas, and crackers are typically rich with gluten. While there are many unprocessed foods that are free of gluten, if these products are made or processed in the vicinity of those with gluten in them, they can easily become contaminated.
People who are sensitive to gluten may have celiac disease, an inflammatory disorder of the small intestine that results in a wide array of uncomfortable and painful symptoms when eating products containing this protein. Symptoms can include gas, constipation, cramps, bloating, and diarrhea. Since the small intestine’s functions, like the absorption of important vitamins and nutrients like B12, can be compromised, fatigue and anemia can also follow. Other, less-obvious symptoms of celiac disease can include mood or weight changes and skin problems. An intolerance for gluten is usually linked with an individual’s genetics and can often manifest as early as infancy. Those who have been diagnosed with celiac disease may have to forgo products with gluten in them for the rest of their lives so as to reduce the incidence of these potentially debilitating symptoms.
Fortunately, the symptoms of celiac disease are manageable with smart food choices. The FDA has taken extra steps to regulate foods that manufacturers label as gluten-free to make them safe for consumption by those with celiac disease. New, uniform guidelines require that foods marketed as gluten-free actually adhere to these claims rather than use them as marketing devices. When shopping for prepackaged foods, look for a “gluten-free” seal to make sure you are purchasing the right foods for your diet. A growing recognition of the problem of celiac disease has led several major manufacturers to offer gluten-free versions of foods typically made with the protein. This allows sufferers the ability to enjoy favorite, go-to foods, like pizza and cereal, without risking intestinal flare-ups.
Generally, going back to basics when creating a dietary menu can be one of the smartest moves a person with celiac disease can make. Hearty meats, like chicken and fish, can be filling and safe to consume, as long as their breading is not derived from gluten. Fruits and vegetables are some of the best food choices for celiac disease suffers because of their high nutritional and vitamin contents. While frozen vegetables can generally be suitable to consume, you should be aware that canned vegetables may have a higher probability of being prepared with gluten contaminants. Vegetables that have been included in sauces can also contain gluten products, as they are typically employed as thickeners and bases.
To ensure that you’re eating the highest quality in natural produce, you can also consider growing your own vegetables in your backyard. Broccoli, carrots, lettuce, peas, radishes, squash, and tomatoes all have reputations for being some of the easiest vegetables to bring to maturity in a home garden. If you’re interested in growing other types of produce, add fruits like strawberries and raspberries and even herbs like thyme and basil to your garden. While the success of your gardening efforts can largely depend on the types of crops that you plant in your region’s soil during specific times of the year, getting a vegetable bed growing can be one of the most stomach-pleasing and fruitful endeavors you can engage in as a person with celiac disease.
Visit the following links for more information about gluten, celiac disease, and vegetable-growing:
- What I Need to Know About Celiac Disease
- Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity for Girls
- Gluten-free Diet for Celiac Disease
- Celiac Disease Food List
- Tax Deduction Guide for Gluten-free Products
- Home Vegetable Gardening
- Guide to Eating Out With Gluten Sensitivities
- Gluten-free Diet: What’s Allowed and What’s Not
- Will a Gluten-free Diet Improve Your Health?
- How to Grow an Herb Garden
- Grow Your Own Garden – It’s Worth It! (PDF)
- Vegetable Garden Planning
- Texas Home Vegetable Gardening Guide (PDF)
- Ten Steps to a Successful Vegetable Garden (PDF)
Eric Vinje founded Planet Natural with his father Wayne in 1991, originally running it as a grasshopper bait mail-order business out of a garage.
Eric is now retired, but is still a renowned gardener known for his expertise in composting, organic gardening and pest control, utilizing pesticide-free options, such as beneficial insects.
Eric believes when you do something good for the environment, the effects will benefit generations to come.