Once upon a time, having to eat a gluten-free diet meant a very limited range of tasty choices.  However, because of the rise in awareness for the need of gluten-free products, manufacturers are stepping up their efforts to produce them.  If you do have to go on a gluten-free diet, you don’t have to worry too much about giving up your favourite foods.  Chances are you’ll be able to find a gluten-free substitute.  If you can’t, there are a lot of great gluten-free recipes that you can easily find online.


What is gluten?


Gluten is a particular type of protein found in some grains such as rye, wheat, and barley.  Because most breads and cereals make use of these grains, they contain gluten.  Just because the food is a grain, doesn’t necessarily mean it contains gluten.  For example, wild rice, corn, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, quinoa, and teff don’t contain gluten (or enough ‘detectable’ gluten to cause a reaction for those who are on a gluten-free diet).  There is some controversy surrounding oats, with conflicting reports.  Many processed foods contain gluten, because it’s used as a food additive by many food manufacturers.


Who should be on a gluten-free diet?


If you suffer from an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine, called coeliac disease, you will most likely be put on a gluten-free diet.  Coeliac disease is often misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).  Some people have the disease but don’t really show any outward symptoms.  The most common symptoms of Coeliac disease include: chronic diarrhoea, the inability to gain weight, unexplained iron-deficiency anaemia, bone or joint pain, arthritis, depression or anxiety, tingling numbness in the hands and feet, seizures, mouth ulcers, missed periods, itchy skin rash, and fatigue.


There are some people who suffer from fibromyalgia who claim a gluten-free diet has helped alleviate some of their symptoms. If you suffer from fibromyalgia, you should discuss this option with your doctor.  You may get some resistance from your doctor because, at this time, there hasn’t been any major research into the effects of a gluten-free diet on fibromyalgia.  If you really want to try it, ultimately, it will be your decision, however it’s a good idea to discuss this with your doctor first before making any changes to your diet.


People with diabetes may benefit from a gluten-free diet, although you do have to be careful as a lot of gluten-free products add extra sugar or extra fat to make them taste better.  For this reason, it’s extremely important that you talk about going on a gluten-free diet with your doctor, dietitian, or nutritionist before you begin.


If you get the all-clear from your health professional to go on a gluten-free diet, then you’ll have many food choices still available to you.  You just have to learn how to look at labels carefully and read labels of each item before putting it in your trolley.  Manufacturers are producing more and more gluten-free foods.  If you have a craving for something that isn’t gluten-free, there are plenty of gluten-free recipes online.  There are many gluten-free cookbooks available too.


Although there are so many gluten-free products available, the best kind of gluten-free products are the wholefoods kind! What do I mean by that? The ones that don’t come in packets. Opt for fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts and legumes. You’ll want to be able to get as much fibre and other nutrients out of the food you eat. There are so many recipes out there using fresh wholefoods and you’ll certainly be much healthier for it! Happy cooking!