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The crackdown on gluten

Last Updated: 17 January 2019








The crackdown on gluten

A gluten-free diet is essential for anyone with Coeliac’s Disease – a lifelong autoimmune disease in which the body reacts to the protein gluten (found in wheat, rye and barley). Symptoms of Coeliac’s Disease include bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, wind, constipation, tiredness, headaches, sudden or unexpected weight loss (but not in all cases), hair loss and anaemia. Around 1 in 100 people are thought to have the condition. 

However, many other non-Coeliacs are now deciding to cut back on or completely cut out gluten containing foods in the hope that it will improve health, boost energy, increase weight loss, and even enhance sports performance. But is there any evidence that going gluten-free is the healthier lifestyle option?


Some people may be sensitive to gluten – and they may experience effects similar to those of Coeliac’s Disease, shortly after eating gluten-containing food. This is because gluten causes an inflammatory response in those sensitive to gluten.  For these people, limiting or completely eliminating gluten in their diet is likely to make them feel better.


 But for many others, eliminating all gluten containing products (wheat, barley, rye, most ready made sauces, and products containing malt) may actually lead to nutrient deficiencies. The reason being, that eliminating wheat, barley and rye often means cutting out whole grains – and many people will not replace these with other suitable whole grains such as quinoa and millet. People also frequently mistake ‘gluten-free’ for meaning healthy – how many times have you seen a gluten free cake or muffin and thought ‘that must be the healthier option, it’s gluten-free’? Unfortunately gluten-free options can still be high in sugar and fat, and often have less of the benefits of whole grains such as fibre, iron and B vitamins.


So what’s the verdict?

If you suspect that you might be sensitive to gluten, the best thing you can do is to completely eliminate gluten from your diet for at least seven days. Then slowly start to reintroduce gluten back in and note the effects it has on how you feel. If you suspect it could be more serious than a sensitivity, your doctor will be able to do a quick and easy test for Coeliac’s Disease.


If you do decide to go gluten-free, remember that you’ll need to keep up your intake of fibre, B vitamins and other nutrients found in whole grains such as selenium and magnesium. Eating alternatives to wheat such as quinoa and millet, and plenty of high fibre foods such as sweet potatoes, brown rice, fruit and vegetables will help. And avoid too many of the gluten-free cakes and muffins!



Written by Dr. Noel Duncan

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