If you are anything like me you have probably noticed a lot of new gluten free products and sections popping up in your local supermarket and you may be wondering what all the hype is about. Gluten free products are becoming more mainstream as the awareness and prevalence of gluten intolerance increases. You may have wondered why you would buy gluten free products over normal products and are there health benefits?
Gluten is a protein that is added to foods as a binder, flavour enhancer and thickener. It is found in many wheat based products such as breads and cereals as a binder, sauces and soups as a thickener and in meat free protein alternatives as a flavour enhancer.
In the last decade, diagnosis of gluten intolerances, allergies and insensitivities have become more common with the latest research showing that 1 in 100 people have some form of intolerance to gluten so naturally more people are choosing a gluten free diet as their way of life. Coeliac disease is fast becoming one of the most common chronic autoimmune diseases in the western world. People with Coeliac disease need to eliminate all products containing gluten and traces of gluten.
Coeliac disease is the most severe form of gluten intolerance. It is a permanent, autoimmune disorder that affects the digestive system, especially the small intestine, causing an abnormal immune response to gluten which is found in wheat and wheat proteins, barley, oats and rye. This leads to bloating, weight loss, malnutrition and inflammation and damage to the small intestine. Both genetic and environmental factors play important roles in coeliac disease and coeliac disease is hereditary.
Coeliac disease can be diagnosed by blood test, endoscopy/biopsy of the small intestine and gene testing and the good news is that the symptoms can be alleviated by cutting out all gluten containing products from your diet. So if you have been diagnosed with coeliac disease or are trying a gluten free diet make sure you are still eating a varied diet with lots of fresh fruit, vegetables and lean meats to ensure you are meeting all your nutritional needs.
Be aware that not all gluten free products are healthy and that sometimes the expensive gluten free foods don’t actually contain gluten anyway so you can normally find a cheaper alternative.
For further information about coeliac disease and for online support visit coeliac.org
By Kali Brydon BSC Human Nutritionist