Even Italians Are Going Gluten-Free!


I was talking to one of my colleagues the other day, as I was daydreaming about spending time in Europe. I started listing my food sensitivities to him, and explained how I choose not to eat gluten or cow’s dairy, and how I’m severely allergic to red wine.

He gasped, smiled, and said, “And you want to live in Europe!?!”

He probably thought I was crazy for wanting to spend so much time on the continent, and in the countries known for wine, beer, baguettes, cheese, gelato, pasta and heavy pastries. I have always been amused by this contradiction too.

When I’m traveling, I will occasionally break my guidelines and sample a few glutinous goodies, or a slice of cheese on a sandwich. I know exactly what will happen to my body if I eat foods made from those ingredients. Sugar gives me a headache, wheat gives me a stomachache, and cow’s dairy gives me a sore throat. Sometimes it’s worth it for the experience of the new cuisine, or exotic pastry that bakers can’t quite imitate in the United States. Usually, I will hold to my eating guidelines, and find a delicious meal that is safe for me, no matter where I am in the world.

Did you know that many Italians are going gluten-free? The terms “gluten-free” and “celiac disease” are becoming well known in the United States, and abroad. Gluten is a sticky protein found in certain grains, like wheat, rye, and barley. People who are extremely intolerant to gluten have celiac disease, where gluten proteins damage the lining of the small intestine. With an irritated small intestine, you lose some of your ability to absorb nutrients from food. Bacteria may also seep out of your intestines and into your body.

Gluten intolerance can contribute to weight gain. When you don’t have the ability to properly absorb nutrients, your body may demand that you overeat because it cannot get enough nutrition out of what you are already consuming. If overeating is the cause of your weight gain, you may become stuck in this cycle. Avoiding gluten and working on your diet can lead to easy weight loss for people who have existing issues with gluten.

Other people are only sensitive to gluten, and choose to avoid certain grains as a way to deal with specific health issues. Depending on your degree of sensitivity, symptoms can include bloating, intestinal upsets, fatigue, joint pain, and rashes, among others. Relief doesn’t happen overnight, but people who choose to avoid gluten often see an improvement in their largest symptom, as well as the reduction of other symptoms. I stopped eating gluten to help reduce inflammation in my gum line. Many of my clients have stopped eating it to assist irritated intestines, and digestive issues.

Your assignment:

If you currently consume gluten: Please take some time to notice any reactions your body has after you eat bread, cereal or other wheat products. Do you get a stomachache, do you get really bad gas, or do you feel aching somewhere in your body?

For those of you who have already chosen to be gluten-free: Think back to a time where you accidentally (or intentionally) consumed a food item that had gluten ingredients in it. How did your body react to that food?

Did you react immediately, or did it take a day to see a change?

If you think you are sensitive to gluten, you actually live in a lucky point in time. There are SO many options available to you! Many grocery stores have sections devoted to gluten-free products. Labels on boxes will often specify if a food has gluten or not. There are breads made of rice flour, and gluten-free pizza mixes. I had gluten-free beer for the first time at a potluck this summer. Many restaurants are proud to offer a gluten-free menu, and you’ll even find quinoa or corn pasta in Italy.

Please trust me when I say that your world will not end if you choose to remove foods from your diet that are harming you. I personally like to look at a gluten-free diet as a wonderful excuse to eat more vegetables, and tastier, more nutritious foods. You can get gluten out, while still enjoying meals that are delicious and fun. It looks like we’re safe in Italy now!

© 2011 Ava Waits


Ava Waits is the founder of Parisian Picnics in Olympia, WA and also the staff nutritional consultant for the WMC Wellness & Fitness program.  Ava will be contributing additional articles in the future and this article is used with her permission.  See below links to Ava’s website and Facebook page for many more tips on how to eat to be healthy along with additional articles for information on gluten in general.

Here’s to your health.

John Barker


Ava Sites




Sites with additional information about Gluten and potential health issues.


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