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Gluten-free cheese refers to a type of cheese that does not contain gluten, a type of protein found in many types of grains. Barley, rye, and wheat all contain gluten, so people with celiac disease should avoid foods with these ingredients in order to maintain their health. Most dairy products do not contain gluten, but it is important that dieters check cheese labels carefully to ensure that they do not have the protein. Others use the diet as a lifestyle choice to lose weight, or to feel better.
Celiac disease refers to a condition in which the small intestine cannot tolerate gluten. The proteins actually damage the intestine, causing abdominal pain, bloating, and excessive gas. More serious effects include weight loss and nutrition deficiencies. By focusing on foods that do not have gluten, people with celiac disease can help to preserve the health of their small intestine and reduce symptoms.
Most types of aged cheeses do not contain gluten, including cheddar, parmesan, and swiss. Unprocessed American cheese is also another type of gluten-free cheese permitted in a diet for celiac disease. All of these cheeses do not have gluten proteins, because they do not carry grains.
Processed cheeses can potentially carry gluten, because they are often mixed with preservatives that contain the protein. Some processing plants also make such cheeses on the same surfaces as foods that contain gluten-containing grains. Cottage and cream cheeses are common culprits, because they are often processed with gluten. Cheeses that contain starch and vegetable gum might also contain gluten. When in doubt, consumers should check product labels.
When looking for gluten-free cheese, consumers should stick with natural cheeses that are not processed. This reduces the risk of accidentally eating gluten-containing cheese, and the resulting health ailments. When eating out, those with celiac disease should check with the waiter to ensure that all ingredients, including cheeses, are gluten-free.
Although gluten-containing foods usually have wheat, rye, or barley, there are other ingredients to avoid when looking for gluten-free cheese. Barley, semolina, and spelt, a type of wheat, also have gluten. Gluten-free cheese should also not contain any durham, graham flour, or matzo meal.
Some dieters who enjoy a gluten-free lifestyle do not actually have celiac disease. Eating gluten-free cheese will not affect symptoms related to the disease in such individuals. People without celiac disease sometimes rely on gluten-free foods to avoid unwanted gastrointestinal ailments, as well as to possibly lose weight.