Why Go Gluten Free?
Coeliac week last month saw a plethora of articles both for and against going gluten free. For Coeliacs there is no option, but if you don't have to, why do it?
If you aren't a Coeliac but are considering a gluten free diet it is important to do your homework. So what is gluten? Gluten is a protein complex that can be found in grass-related grains: wheat, rye, barley, oat and other related species. It is the ingredient responsible for giving dough its elasticity, helping it rise, and giving it a chewy texture. And for some people, gluten is harmless.
Some consider gluten an unnatural part of our diet. Before people began to farm we had a relatively low grain diet, relying on food we could hunt or gather. Grains like wheat could only be eaten after they had been processed and so our consumption of these grains only began as our agriculture developed. But just because these grains weren't always a part of our diet, doesn't mean they are necessarily bad for us.
Going gluten free can lead to a healthier lifestyle. Those high fibre breads we rely on are usually factory produced, and on an industrial scale it's been found that excess gluten can speed up production. This means that often we are unwittingly consuming more gluten than is necessary and this can cause bowel issues. Turning to more natural products is definitely a good move.
Gluten isn't just in breads though. It finds its way into a surprising amount of products, so if you want to go gluten free you have to read labels. This means you're naturally going to be much more aware of everything you're eating.
The downside to going gluten free is that a lot of products replace gluten with higher fat and sugar content, so it isn't a sure way to lose weight. The key is to be careful. Read packaging labels to really understand what is in your food. Have a healthy balance. If you approach your gluten free diet in a sensible way you may find that you have more energy and feel less bloated. And if you have gluten sensitivity, you'll find you have fewer stomach related issues.
A lot of people consider a gluten free diet an answer to all kinds of problems, from skin issues to chronic fatigue syndrome and even autism. It’s really a personal thing. If you find that you feel better going gluten free, then that’s great, but it’s not going to be the case for everyone. One thing to note is that GPs don't automatically test for Coeliac disease and gluten sensitivity when a patient comes to them with bowel problems. As a result, these conditions can remain hidden for quite some time. If you have IBS it could be a sign that have gluten sensitivity, so it's important to make sure you get tested for this. Seek medical advice, approach food with care and consideration and don't overdo anything. Our bodies are complex things, with diverse needs – it's important we make sure we look after them by making sure we get the full range of nutrients necessary.
If you aren't intolerant or coeliac, the best advice is to still approach all food with moderation.