Below, we discuss the ins and outs of what it means to be gluten-free and impart advice on how to adapt.
Gluten-free eating has picked up significantly over the past few years. In the UK, 10% of the population have given gluten the boot from their diets and thanks to the wide variety of substitutes available, it’s easier than ever to embrace the gluten-free lifestyle.
Gluten intolerance vs Coeliac disease
Coeliac disease is characterised as an immune reaction against proteins found in grains such as rye, barley and wheat. The disease causes damage to the lining of the small intestine and is usually confirmed by endoscopy or a blood test.
Gluten sensitivity, on the other hand, it more nebulous. Many people have symptoms that marry up with coeliac disease (such as anaemia, constipation, itchy skin and diarrhoea) but do not present with any internal damage.
Often, an eliminating diet (or FODMAP) is needed to rule out other issues – often reactions to wheat can be down to IBS.
The foods I can eat
In recent years, the food industry has responded to the desire and need for more gluten-free products.
In most popular supermarkets, you’ll find staples like bread and pasta, except they’re gluten-free, so you can still have your pasta and eat it (so to speak)!
General tips when starting a gluten-free diet
Here are some useful tips to incorporate into your arsenal when following a gluten-free diet….
Get used to reading labels when you shop – this may feel like a drag at first, but after a short, while it will become second nature as you start to develop muscle memory for the foods you know are gluten-free in the store.
Avoid cross contamination – even a small amount of gluten is enough to set off your symptoms. Make sure you’re using different chopping boards and utensils to prepare a meal if you’ve got your gluten-eating friends over for dinner.
Make experimenting in the kitchen your friend – embrace being creative with the new foods you try to find the alternative combinations you enjoy best.
Approach a dietician if you need support – if you’re having problems adapting, why not seek help from a dietician, who can put together a tailored eating plan that suits you?
Don’t worry about having to ask restaurants and cafes to alter meals for you – establishments serving food are very accustomed to preparing meals that suit a number of dietary requirements, including for those who don’t eat gluten.
Try not to feel awkward or embarrassed about asking for special treatment when it comes to your allergy.
Good luck with going gluten-free!