You probably know someone who has decided to go gluten-free recently—either because of health concerns or because he or she wanted to do something different. “Gluten-free” and “celiac disease” have been thrown around a lot in the national consciousness and thus there has been a lot of confusion about what gluten and celiac disease are.

Many people have made the choice to eliminate or cut back on gluten in their diets. It can be overwhelming and difficult to navigate all the information available about what does and does not contain gluten.

At Riceworks, not only are we committed to providing smart snack choices, but we are also committed to educating consumers. This article will give you the basics of starting a gluten-free diet — touching on what gluten and celiac disease are, and how to tell whether or not your body may be sensitive to gluten-containing products.

What is gluten?

Gluten, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation, is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and malt. Gluten also acts as a bonding agent that holds many processed foods together — think sauces, dressings and fillings. Gluten is most often found in bread, pasta, crackers, cereal, baked goods containing flour and most beers.

What is celiac disease?

It’s an auto-immune disorder where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. Symptoms include abdominal bloating and pain, chronic diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue, bone or joint pain, depression/anxiety and tingling numbness in the limbs, to name just a few. For an extensive list of symptoms, click here.

Most symptoms occur during or around the time you ingest gluten-containing food or products, but some can linger or manifest themselves much later. If you suspect that you have gluten insensitivity or celiac disease, talk to your doctor about going gluten-free for two to three weeks and see how you feel. Only your doctor or health care professional can test you to find out for sure, but cutting gluten out of your diet will be a strong indicator of whether or not you have issues with digesting gluten.