It is well known that people with the a . But, if you don’t have is it really necessary to avoid ? After all, -containing foods are staples in the western . And, you don’t really want to give up bread, pasta, , pastry or pizza. What will you eat? , must adhere to
As a herbalist, I often help people with gut health problems. And this question does come up a lot. So let me explain why gluten can be a problem and what you can eat instead.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and some oats. Products made from these grains, such as wheat flour also contain gluten. So going gluten free does eliminate quite a lot of staple foods.
In fact, it might be harder than you think to avoid eating gluten. If you check food labels you will find lots of packaged food contains hidden gluten in their ingredient list.
Gluten containing food
Here are some examples of foods that may include a gluten containing grain:
- 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, salad dressing, gravy, stock cubes and granules, spice mixes, 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
- confectionaries such as chocolate and liquorice sweets
The problem is that most people with coeliac disease don’t know they have it. So, for each person with a diagnosis, there are about 6 more that are undiagnosed. And, if you have coeliac disease but continue to eat gluten containing food, then this can cause all sorts of health problems. You see autoimmunity to gluten doesn’t just affect the gut but also the brain and the skin. In fact, many people with coeliac disease don’t have gut health problems at all.
But this isn’t even the whole story. There is also the problem of gluten intolerance. This is called non celiac gluten sensitivity. People with gluten sensitivity react to gluten but do not have coeliac disease. Although they do suffer some of the same symptoms. Gluten intolerance might be an even bigger problem than coeliac disease. Current estimates suggest that up to 10% of people may have gluten sensitivity. However, even this estimate may be too low, as there is no specific test for gluten sensitivity.
Gluten related disorders
Similarly to coeliac disease, non-coeliac gluten sensitivity may not even cause digestive problems. For instance, these are some conditions associated with gluten sensitivity:
- irritable bowel syndrome
- dermatitis, psoriasis
- multiple sclerosis
- peripheral neuropathy
- schizophrenia, depression
- ADHD, autism
So, if you or your doctor suspects you have any of these gluten related disorders, what can you do?
One way to determine if gluten is a problem for you is to simply stop eating it. Try not eating any gluten containing foods for a while. Typically, I suggest avoiding gluten for 60 to 90 days. Then see how you feel. Did your symptoms go away when you were gluten free? When you add these foods back into your diet, do you feel any different? If you feel worse after re-introducing gluten it is a sign that you probably shouldn’t be eating it. Going gluten free (GF) is a lot easier than it used to be. Many people are choosing to eat gluten free food as they feel it is a healthier option. And, as this way of eating becomes more popular, manufacturers have improved their products. So, the quality and taste of food such as gluten free bread has improved a lot. There are GF breads and pasta that are very similar to gluten containing versions. Still, there are drawbacks to eating a GF diet. GF foods are more expensive than their gluten containing counterparts. What’s more, GF baked goods are highly processed, so they’re not really a healthy option. Processed foods contain very little dietary fibre. Factory produced processed food shouldn’t be part of a healthy balanced diet.
So, is there another option?
In fact there is.
What to eat on a gluten free diet
We don’t need to eat the gluten containing grains for health. There are some gluten free grains, such as corn and rice. And there are grain-like foods, such as quinoa and millet. But, grains are relatively poor in nutrients compared to many ofther foods. So, maybe you could substitute other foods instead.
Instead of eating gluten, there are plenty of gluten free options that we use in our house. For instance, instead of eating pasta or couscous, we might choose rice, potatoes or riced cauliflower. Vegetable noodles made from courgettes or butternut squash make a great alternative to spaghetti. Plus, you get the benefits of extra fibre and nutrients from the vegetables.
We use cornflour for thickening sauces. And for baking we can choose from flours made from potato, coconut, chestnut or almonds. There are lots of delicious gluten free recipes online. Look out for recipes suitable for people on the paleo diet or caveman diet. This type of diet eliminates all grains so it will always be gluten free.
So if you’re still thinking of eating gluten free. And lets face it there are plenty of health related reasons to do so. Here are some of the best websites with recipes to inspire you: