Gluten Free Diet: Everything you need to know about eating gluten free

Read through our guide to following a successful gluten free diet.

If you have a gluten intolerance or coeliac disease, then avoiding symptom-triggering foods and opting for a gluten free diet is vital.

Our gluten free tips will show you everything from how to detect coeliac disease and gluten intolerance, to what foods you can eat and what you should avoid – plus give you some ideas for a few gluten free recipes you can try.

Although following a gluten free diet might mean having to avoid some of your favourite foods, this little guide will show you how that following a gluten free diet doesn’t actually have to feel restrictive at all!

What is gluten?

Gluten is a special kind of protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Many everyday foods contain gluten.

A gluten-free diet is one that completely cuts out gluten, either by eating foods that are naturally gluten-free or by swapping foods that contain gluten for gluten-free alternatives. A gluten-free diet is not the same as a wheat free diet. Bear in mind that some gluten-free foods may still contain wheat.

Foods that contain gluten:

The following food and drinks contain gluten and should be avoided, unless they’re labelled as gluten free versions:

  • Pasta
  • Bread
  • Pizza bases
  • Flours
  • Cereals
  • Biscuits
  • Squashes and fizzy drinks that contain barley
  • Lager, stout and ales

Top tip: Some people with coeliac disease can eat oats without any side effects but in general, the Coeliac Society advises people with this condition to steer clear of them too.

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What is coeliac disease?

Coeliac disease is a common digestive problem is a common problem where the small intestine comes inflamed and unable to absorb nutrients. It is caused by an adverse reaction to gluten.

Coeliac disease symptoms:

Coeliac disease can cause a range of symptoms including abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhoea, which may smell particularly unpleasant. Other general symptoms include:

  • Indigestion
  • Constipation
  • Gas
  • Fatigue as a result of malnutrition (not obtaining enough nutrients from food)
  • Nausea
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • An itchy rash
  • Problems getting pregnant

Coeliac disease is permanent so sufferers should aim to cut out gluten from their diet for life. Once they’ve stopped eating gluten, many people with coeliac disease will feel better within a few weeks but it may take up to two years for some people’s gut to recover.

About one in a hundred people in the UK suffer from coeliac disease which is caused by an intolerance to gluten, however, Coeliac UK states that only 30% of people who have the condition have been diagnosed, meaning there are currently as many as half a million people who have coeliac disease but just don’t know yet.

Although rare, extreme cases can result in infertility, intestinal lymphoma and small bowel cancer. That’s why a gluten free diet is essential.

What is gluten intolerance?

Many people still experience gut symptoms when eating foods containing gluten, even if they don’t have coeliac disease. This is known as non-coeliac gluten sensitivity.

Gluten doesn’t cause a problem to most people but some people’s bodies can’t tolerate it. No one really knows how or why but it’s thought certain people’s immune systems react against it.

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Unlike coeliac disease, gluten sensitivity doesn’t damage the intestine. It does, however, give people many of the same symptoms as coeliac disease, such as bloating, gas, abdominal pain, nausea, fatigues and headaches.

By cutting out gluten completely, these people will not only feel better day-to-day, they’ll also avoid storing up health problems in the future.

Getting a diagnosis:

If you have noticed that you react badly to gluten by suffering from the symptoms above, it’s important to see a doctor and get tested for coeliac disease.

The diagnosis consists of taking a blood test, and depending on the results you may also need to get an intestinal biopsy.

It is vital to see your GP before starting any gluten-free diet, because if you quit gluten before taking the blood test, your immune system may no longer be making the antibodies the test checks for. Stephano Guandalini, director of University of Chicago Celiac Disease Centre, says ‘if you think you might have coeliac disease, the biggest mistake is to begin a diet without being tested.’

If you test positive for coeliac disease, you may also have other tests to assess how the condition has affected you so far. Once diagnosed, you can receive practical advice about switching to a gluten-free diet by contacting your local coeliac disease support group.

If tests have confirmed that you do not have coeliac disease, you might wish to discuss the possibility of non-coeliac gluten sensitivity with your GP.

Find out more:

If you feel unwell after eating certain foods, visit your doctor.

Visit www.coeliac.co.uk or ring the Coeliac UK helpline on 0870 444 8804 for help and advice.

Juvela and Glutafin are two companies that make a whole range of gluten-free foods. Visit www.juvela.co.uk and www.glutafin.co.uk for more information.

Gluten free foods:

There are loads of foods that are naturally gluten free, many of which you are probably already eating without even realising it. Naturally gluten-free foods include:

  • Fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and pulses
  • Meat, poultry and fish
  • Eggs, soya, milk, cheese, natural yoghurt, cream
  • Corn, tapioca, polenta, buckwheat, sago, arrowroot, teff, rice and quinoa
  • Gluten-free flours (rice, soya, corn, potato, gram, bean)
  • Butter, margarine and cooking oils
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You will need to cut out most processed food including bread, cakes, ready meals, pasta and some man-made meat products like sausages. If in doubt, check the label before you buy. The list of ingredients might
include wheat, barley or rye – all things to look out for, or it might actually state gluten.

The good news is that gluten-free alternatives to your favourite foods are easier to come by today than ever before! It’s now possible to buy gluten-free bread and pasta along with many other products. Most large supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s Tesco and Waitrose stock a gluten-free range and some foods are even available on prescription.

 Gluten free diet recipes:

If you’re looking for some inspiration as how to whip up a delicious gluten-free recipe, whether it be for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert, then check out the plethora of delectable gluten-free recipes available on our website!

Breakfast: Blueberry and Coconut pancakes
Lunch: Quinoa, feta and broccoli salad
Dinner: Sophie Dahl’s buckwheat and mushroom risotto

Gluten free restaurants:

Eating out can be a bit of a hassle for those with gluten-free diets, however, as we said, now’s as good a time as ever to be eating gluten-free as restaurants are expanding their menus at an incredible pace.

Head to the Coeliac UK website and take a look at their extensive Venue Guide to find out which places you can head to if you’re in the mood to eat out with the family, friends or a date.

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The days of being held back by your gluten free diet truly are gone!