Gluten is a protein found in most grain such as wheat, barley, rye and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye).
In recent years, the gluten free diet has become increasingly popular, but it isn’t a diet in the traditional sense. This is because it is not intended for weight loss and is the only treatment for coeliac disease. Did you know gluten provides no essential nutrients to your body?
Coeliac disease (pronounced see-liac) is a long-term autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks your own tissues when you consume gluten. It primarily affects the small intestine and damages the lining of the gut which means the body will not be able to absorb nutrients from foods.
It is a common misconception that coeliac disease is an allergy or food intolerance. It affects 1 in a 100 people but only 30% of people who have the condition have been diagnosed. Symptoms of coeliac disease include: diarrhoea, bloating, vomiting, stomach aches, indigestion and constipation.
It can be confusing to distinguish between gluten and gluten free foods but thankfully there are now several ways you can stay on top of this. For example, there are gluten free checker apps where you can scan items to identify if they are gluten free or not. There are also gluten free substitutes which are readily available in most supermarkets. For example, gluten free bread, pasta, biscuits and flour.
Foods that are naturally gluten free include;
- fruit and vegetables,
- most dairy products (cheese, milk, butter),
- Improves energy levels – people with coeliac disease often suffer from chronic fatigue and this is because the gut isn’t able to absorb nutrients such as iron which means less oxygen reaches your muscles and tissues which deprives you of energy. A gluten free diet gives your gut the chance to heal and to start absorbing these essential nutrients.
- Improves bone health – the malabsorption of nutrients in coeliac disease patients can lead to problems such as osteoporosis from the lack of calcium. Calcium is stored in bones and teeth and is needed to support the skeleton.
- Improves immunity – a gluten free diet will mean you are consuming more antioxidants, minerals and vitamins that can help ward off viruses and germs. You are also more likely to eat fruits and vegetables because they are gluten free!
- Promotes digestive health – once you begin your gluten free diet you may find yourself experiencing reduced bloating or none at all.
By Pooja Depala