GLUTEN-free food has been popping up on supermarket shelves or as an alternative offered in restaurants.
People who suffer from coeliac, also spelled celiac, disease must avoid gluten, but this differs from gluten sensitivity.
What is gluten-free?
Gluten is a protein compound which helps bind food together.
Being gluten-free means avoiding all foods which contain gluten, particularly anything made from wheat, barley or rye.
Gluten is found in many common foods, including bread, pasta, pastry, cakes, biscuits, breakfast cereals and cakes.
But is also found in some foods not associated with starchy carbohydrates, including sausages, sauces, soups and ready meals.
In the modern world a lot of foodstuffs contain high amounts of refined wheat products, meaning people are eating more gluten than ever before.
It is thought this over-consumption may have led people to become sensitive to gluten.
What happens if you eat it?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition, and eating gluten causes damage to the lining of the gut.
When gluten is eaten, the body’s immune system attacks itself.
The lining in the small intestine is damaged, and the body cannot properly absorb nutrients from food.
For a celiac, if they ingest gluten it can cause bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, tiredness, headaches and in some cases weight and hair loss.
Coeliac disease is a life-long condition which affects roughly 1 in 100 people.
There is no cure and the only way to treat it is by avoiding gluten.
It can take weeks or months for the gut to heal and damage to be reversed after eating gluten for a sufferer.
For people who are gluten intolerant or gluten sensitive, but not a celiac, symptoms are similar but are not accompanied by antibodies and there is no damage to the lining of the gut.
What can I eat?
Often packaging will say whether something is gluten free but always check the label, as it may appear in certain foods you wouldn’t normally associate with gluten, and cross-contamination is also a factor.
Oats, and porridge oats, are somewhat a grey area, as they are commonly associated with gluten but do not contain it.
Oats in fact contain a protein similar to gluten, avenin, meaning some people can eat them, and others can’t.
Egg noodles usually contain gluten, as it is in the flour used to make them.
Udon, soba, ramen and chow mein noodles also usually contain gluten.
What foods are naturally gluten free?
- Fruit and vegetables
Anything made from brown, white or wild rice – check any sauces that may accompany them – should be ok.
This includes rice-based products, such as rice cakes and puffed rice – but check the label first.
While lots of seeds, grains, and flour is gluten-free, pearl barley is not.
And as lots of beers, ales and stouts contain barley, this rules them out as well.
Crackers, including pretzels, must be avoided, as do waffles, pancakes, crepes and tortillas.
Bagels, croissants, pitta and naan bread usually contain gluten, as does crumpets.
Pasta sauces and gravy may contain gluten, as does some stuffing mixes.
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According to Celiac Corner, Chorizo and other processed meats, including hot dogs, cured bacon and lunch meats could contain gluten, make sure to always check the label.
As supermarkets and stores cater for a wider range of dietary requirements, they will likely have a section dedicated to ‘free from’ goods.
These are usually for people who are lactose intolerant, vegans, celiacs or have other dietary requirements.
For more information visit website Coeliac UK.
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