What is it?
Gluten is a special kind of protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Many everyday foods contain gluten including bread, biscuits, pasta and even some man-made meat products such as sausages.
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.
How does it work?
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.
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.
About one in a hundred people in the UK suffer from coeliac disease
which is caused by an intolerance to gluten. After eating foods
containing gluten, people with this condition will suffer symptoms
including bloating, nausea, headaches and constipation Extreme cases can
result in infertility, osteoporosis and gut cancer. That’s why a gluten
free diet is essential.
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.
What are the drawbacks?
Gluten is found in a surprising number of foods so it can be hard to
completely cut it out. But if you’ve got coeliac disease, it really is
the best way to become and stay healthy.
What do you do?
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 in recent years hundreds of gluten-free foods have
been created. It’s now possible to buy gluten-free bread and pasta
along with many other products. Most large supermarkets stock a
gluten-free range and some foods are even available on prescription.
Instead of regular flour, coeliacs can use other types of flour that
don’t contain gluten including potato flour, soya flour and buckwheat
Many foods are naturally gluten-free including rice, maize, fish, cheese
and eggs. Fruit, vegetables and pulses like peas and beans are also
fine. Gluten-free alternatives are now widely available to replace foods
normally full of gluten.
Typical day’s diet
Breakfast: Gluten-free porridge, dried fruit.
Lunch: Salad with tuna, cheese or mixed beans in tomato sauce, rice crackers, fruit.
Dinner: Steak, potatoes, carrots and peas.
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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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.