1. What is a gluten free diet and who should be on it
2. Where is gluten found & how to tell if a product is gluten free
3. How to get enough fibre on a gluten free diet
4. Low GI eating on a gluten free diet
If there are any other topics you'd like me to blog on while I'm at it, let me know and I'll add it to my list!
So without further ado, let's get started with Part 1....
What is a gluten free diet and should you be on one?
The reason most people require a gluten free diet is because they have coeliac disease. Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease meaning that you are born with it and will have it for life. Only 1% of the population have coeliac disease.
Now what happens in coeliac disease is that the body does not have the ability to absorb a protein found in a number of grains called gluten. A non-coeliac person's gut is made with tiny finger-like projections called villi, and these allow them to absorb all their nutrients. What happens in coeliac disease is that because the body can't absorb gluten, the gut goes a bit crazy and instead of being finger like (with a nice long surface area to increase absorption of nutrients), these villi become flat as though to say, sorry this door is closed. No entry here. And as such many nutrients are malabsorbed (not just gluten!)
|Hope you like my little drawing, and no I'm not an artist :)|
Once a person is diagnosed with coeliac disease, in order to get their villi back into tip top shape they need to elimate all gluten from their diet. Permanently. What happens if a person with coeliac disease continues to eat gluten? Well by doing so they're placing themselves at an increased risk of developing some forms of cancer, osteoporosis, infertility, miscarriage, depression and general ill health.
So it's serious stuff. The one thing to note from this is that if you don't have coeliac disease or an intolerance to gluten there is no need to be on a gluten free diet. In fact, by doing so you will be substantially limiting your food choices and placing yourself at risk of micronutrient deficiencies. It is not 'healthy' to eat a gluten free diet, even though foods are often marketed this way. But neverless, if someone requires a gluten free diet, it can be healthy and perfectly adequate but you'll need guidance from your GP and dietitian to ensure your diet ticks all the boxes.
Next week I'll talk about what foods contain gluten and I'll give you a simple label reading guide on how to tell if a product is gluten free (it's not quite as easy as looking for the big words 'GLUTEN FREE').