So many buzzwords fly around about how we should eat… gluten free, grain free, paleo etc. Things have certainly changed since I was diagnosed with Coeliac disease almost 20 years ago. I’d never even heard of gluten and was devastated at the thought of not eating any more croissants (ironically I’d worked in a bakery for 8 years!). In 2012 when my then 5 yo was also diagnosed, he hardly batted an eyelid as he was already so used to gluten free bread.
So what do some of these labels mean? Coeliacs like me have a genetic autoimmune condition. This means the immune system doesn’t react properly to gluten (a protein found in wheat, oats, barley and rye). This causes damage to the intestine and means you have trouble absorbing nutrients in other food you eat. The short term symptoms aren’t glamorous (think stomach troubles…plus headaches and fatigue) and the long terms consequences can be serious (including inflammation, infertility, skin problems, higher risk of developing diabetes, cancers etc). It’s a lifelong condition, although completely reversible without medicine by following a strict gluten free diet. (See Coeliac Org here for more details).
Non coeliac gluten sensitivity is majorly on the rise as lots of people now choose to follow a gluten free diet even though they aren’t officially diagnosed as coeliac This might be because they have the same symptoms as coeliacs when they eat gluten (known as IBS or irritable bowel syndrome), or they just think its trendy or healthier (check out this Jimmy Kimmel video for a laugh – by the way gluten is a PROTEIN people)!
Many mainstream medical practitioners say that if you’re not coeliac there’s no benefit from removing gluten from your diet. The “coeliac like” symptoms might instead be caused by another molecule (fructans) which is found in some gluten containing products (view this link disease information/low fodmap diet). But there’s also a growing body of scientific work and anecdotal evidence showing that gluten might not be good for anyone due to its inflammatory impact on the body, particularly in the way most people now eat it (ie using highly processed and refined grains).
If you want to read more about the impact of gluten check out:
Grain Brain – David Perlmutter MD
Wheat Belly – Dr William Davis
If you feel better on a gluten free diet, it’s always still important to get tested for coeliac disease. Once you remove the gluten, the test won’t work.
What are your experiences with a gluten free diet, do you find it easy or confusing? Next time we’ll look at easy GF recipe substitutes.