My sister has Celiac Disease. This means that her body has intolerance to gluten and eating it can have serious health repercussions for her. Many people adopt a gluten-free diet even through choice rather than necessity and this seems to be a growing trend.
Why go gluten-free?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, bulgur, spelt, oats, rye, pasta, kamut and triticale. Gluten is also contained in many meat free, vegan-friendly products as seitan which is in effect wheat protein. It’s what makes foods like bread, bagels and pasta chewy and elastic and gives dough its flexibility.
Physical indications of an intolerance to gluten include; bloating, diarrhoea, fatigue and heart-burn. Gluten intolerance is the most common intestinal food sensitivity and in many cases is never clinically diagnosed as the symptoms may only be minor and merely an inconvenience. For coeliac disease sufferers however, even the tiniest amount of gluten can result in serious consequences. The intestinal tract may be scarred; severe weight loss and malnutrition can occur and in children, growth may be stunted.
The reason for the sudden increase in gluten intolerance is unclear. A popular school of thought is that a combination of greater awareness, poor quality of food, and stress could be responsible. In a world where everyone seems to be perpetually busy holding down a job, looking after a family etc our diet is neglected. Few of us prepare meals from scratch using fresh, organic foodstuffs opting instead for ready prepared and processed foods and junk meals which are more convenient and cheaper. A typical diet contains a lot of foods with high gluten content; cereal or toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, pasta or pizza for our evening meal and cake, flapjacks or biscuits for snacking during the day.
I recently tried drastically reducing the amount of gluten I eat, although as far as I am aware I don’t have a food allergy problem. So, for one month I replaced bread and cereal with fruit and fresh vegetables, rice and quinoa and instead of eating prepared ready meals, I cooked my food from scratch using almost all fresh ingredients. And the result? Well, I had previously suffered with bloating and weight gain; not anymore! I’ve lost weight and I feel so much better too. I have more energy and I no longer feel bloated and ‘stuffed’ after meals. I still enjoy an occasional biscuit, but I’ve started buying gluten free instead.
The Free From range of products are all gluten free and many are also vegan-friendly. If you don’t want to go the whole hog and cut gluten from your diet altogether, I’d certainly recommend reducing the amount you eat even if you don’t have gluten sensitivity. There are plenty of really tasty recipes out there to try too, many of them on vegan sites.
Give gluten free a try. Your body might thank you for it!