It is well known that people diagnosed with coeliac disease must adhere to a gluten free diet for life. However, what is not commonly known is that for each person diagnosed with coeliac disease there are about 6 more people that are undiagnosed.
There is also the recently proven condition of non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), in which people are sensitive to gluten but do not have coeliac disease. This is potentially an even bigger problem than coeliac disease with current estimates suggesting up to 10% of people may be affected. However, it seems likely that even this estimate may be too low, as there is no specific test for NCGS.
One reason that gluten sensitivity may go undiagnosed is that most people wrongly assume that gluten sensitivity always causes digestive problems. Both coeliac disease and non-coeliac gluten sensitivity can be present with or without gut issues.
These are some conditions that have been associated with gluten sensitivity:
- irritable bowel syndrome
- dermatitis, psoriasis
- multiple sclerosis
- peripheral neuropathy
- schizophrenia, depression
- ADHD, autism
One way to determine if gluten is a problem for you is to eliminate it from your diet for 60 to 90 days and then see how you feel. Then re-introduce the gluten. This process is the gold standard method for diagnosing gluten intolerance. Most people feel over-whelmed by the suggestion to eliminate gluten. And it is no wonder, as gluten is found in a huge range of foods. It is found naturally in flour and anything made from it. But, it is also included as an ingredient, thickener or filler in other foods. Here are some examples of gluten containing foods:
- bread and bread rolls, cakes, crackers, pastry and biscuits, pancakes, waffles and pizza
- most breakfast cereals except those made from rice or corn
- flour and flour products, such as pasta, couscous and semolina
- meat and fish products, such as burgers, sausages, luncheon meats, pates and spreads
- vegetable products such as tinned beans and soups
- sauces and condiments, such as mayonnaise, gravy, stock cubes and granules, spice mixes and mustards and preprepared sauces
- desserts such as ice cream, anything made with pastry and cheesecake
- beverages made from powder, instant coffee, ovaltine and malted milk, and beers
- confectionary such as chocolate and liquorice sweets
Perhaps this explains the surge in gluten free products on the supermarket shelves. These products are likely to appeal to people told to eat gluten free foods for health reasons. In addition, many people are choosing to eat a gluten free diet as they feel it is a healthier option. Gluten free alternatives can take the guess work out of shopping. But gluten free products also cost up to twice the amount of their gluten containing counterparts, so eating gluten free products can work out very expensive.
But, notice that all these foods are man made, processed foods. None of these foods are required in a healthy diet. Our hunter gatherer ancestors didn’t eat these foods and we don’t need to either. We also don’t need to consume the gluten-free alternatives. These are just more of the same, factory produced, processed foods.
I advocate eating a nutrient dense paleo-inspired type of diet. One that is rich in fresh and unprocessed foods such as meat and poultry, organ meats like liver, fish and shellfish, eggs, nuts and seeds, vegetables and fruit.
So if you’re thinking of trying a gluten free diet. And lets face it there are plenty of health related reasons to do so. Here are some websites with recipes to inspire you.