If you’re like my mother, you’ve probably dismissed gluten intolerance as a trend exported from the West with no basis in reality. While it certainly is rather trendy to make gluten the villain, there is data that shows about 15 percent of the (American) population has a hard time digesting this protein found in lots of cereal grains like wheat, and products made from these, like bread. In fact, gluten is the main component of flour that gives it elasticity; it’s the reason bread rises when leavening is added to it, and it’s also the reason chapatis keep their shape and don’t fall apart or crumble. About 1 percent of the global population has what’s known as Celiac’s disease. People who have this cannot break down the gluten in their digestive tract and experience horrid symptoms like bloating, nausea, and pain.

Sadly, it’s the only real diagnosis that works for gluten sensitivity. If you don’t test positive for Celiac’s – and we don’t want you to, either – the only thing that will work for you is trial and error in figuring it out. Do you have it? Are you intolerant of gluten? Ask yourself this: Do you experience nausea, fatigue, dizziness, bloating, inflammation, headaches, or mood swings after you eat gluten? And can you be sure it’s only the gluten causing it, not an allergy to lactose, dairy protein, or any other ingredient in your food?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you can try to omit it from your diet and then gauge the difference.

The most obvious place to start is to cut out foods made from wheat, whetheratta ormaida, barley (jau), rye, and oats (because of cross contamination, oats are themselves gluten free)So, noroti, paratha, bread, cereal, meusli, pasta, cake, and definitely no muffins or croissants.

The more expensive option is to shop in the gluten-free section of your super market. These products use nut flours and other alternatives, but generally with a huge mark-up on price. But you can make other changes to your diet without emptying your wallet: eat rice instead of bread and chapati, eat Japanese buckwheat noodles instead of semolina pasta; go withpoha for breakfast instead ofupma. Another option I espouse is switching to indigenous grains. Eatjowar(sorghum) andbajra, ragi, nachni(millets). Buy these flours and mix withrajgira(amaranth) which is our local super food like the international star that quinoa has become. These are not only healthier for you, buying them also supports local farmers and conserves natural resources, because they’re not being transported and stored like wheat. That’s my $0.02 and you’re free to ignore it, of course. Either way, it can get hard to avoid gluten, but it’s not impossible. Just make sure when you go out to check the ingredients of your dish with your server and double check with the chef. If you’re severely intolerant, consider taking your own bread and dessert when you visit friends. At least you can be guaranteed of something to eat.

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