Gluten free, fat free, sugar free, carb free… the list goes on. The food products in the gluten free aisle in supermarkets have grown considerably over the past few years. These days its nearly impossible to walk into a restaurant without seeing a speciality menu and displays carrying gluten free items. Yes, that’s great news for people with Coeliac disease, who have an abnormal immune response to gluten, but what about the rest of us? Why are so many people without Coeliac disease opting for gluten-free products?
What is gluten?
Simply put, Gluten isn’t a crazy made up artificial ingredient, its a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and many other whole grain foods. Many of my clients aren’t diagnosed as Coeliac (remember you need to be diagnosed through the appropriate medical tests, not google self-diagnosis!) but find that removing just bread from their diet can help reduce bloating and discomfort in their tummy.
Research shows that Coeliac disease affects 1 in 100 people in the UK. Research also suggests over 500,000 people have not been diagnosed. For diagnosed coeliacs its essential to go gluten free because of the effects it can have on their small intestine. I’m not here to tell you that you’re wrong to take gluten our of your diet. Ultimately, its your decision what to put in your fridge, cupboards and body. There is evidence however to suggest that gluten is a difficult protein for all humans to digest and they might be better avoiding it.
Why has gluten sensitivity increased?
Human beings have never had the adequate stomach enzymes necessary to break down gluten so it can be digested properly, this has been made worse by the state of food manufacturing particularly wheat, over the past 100 years. Study analysis show that the amount of gluten in the wheat today has increased to 14 percent from 4 percent a century ago.
Does eliminating gluten help you lose weight?
I believe there is a myth out there with a lot of people who think that somehow, not eating products containing gluten will make them skinnier! Sorry to burst your bubble, but that simply isn’t true. Currently there isn’t any scientific evidence to suggest consumption of gluten will lead to increased body fat. While anecdotal accounts exist, and many social media posts claim gluten is evil, this is more than likely due to a heightened awareness of peoples foods and macro-nutrient splits (protein, fat and carbs). Excess calories and physical inactivity will lead to weight gain, not gluten.
What can you actually eat if you are a diagnosed Coeliac?
Unfortunately, you have to avoid gluten for life. The gluten free diet is the only treatment for the condition. That said some people who have simply an allergy or intolerance to wheat also fare well following a gluten free diet. The gluten free diet is rich and varied and you can eat many foods including meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, rice and potatoes. You can also eat gluten free substitute foods and processed foods that don’t contain gluten but I recommend this as an exception rather than the rule. The upside is, you no longer have to miss out on special treats at Christmas and Easter. Coeliac UK has been working with supermarkets to increase availability of gluten-free food in stores to reduce the number of shops you may need to visit just to get staple items. The Gluten-free Guarantee is a commitment by supermarkets to having eight core items in stock across all their stores.
Local shops like Spar are now stocking a wide range of gluten free products at more affordable prices. You can also check out the gluten free treats for Easter that are widely available in your local Spar. If you need any further information on a gluten free way of life visit www.coeliac.org.uk for more information.