Gluten free diets have been the latest craze for the last year or so. Gluten free meals and items are now the norm at cafes and restaurants and half an isle at the supermarket is dedicated to gluten free products. Lately a few celebrities have even come out to say they shed the kilos by saying goodbye to gluten.
But hold on a sec…what is this ‘evil’ gluten? Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, triticale and oats. That’s it! It is simply a protein – nothing evil about it. However, a person who has Coeliac disease is sensitive to gluten. This means that when they eat foods containing gluten it damages the lining of their small intestine and can cause bloating, pain, diarrhoea, vomiting and fatigue. Left untreated or undiagnosed Coeliac disease can lead to nutrient malabsorption, osteoporosis, malnutrition and even infertility. Coeliac disease is an auto immune disease with no cure, the only way to prevent symptoms is by eating a gluten free diet. Therefore there is no benefit of following a gluten free diet unless you have celiac disease.
A gluten free diet is no healthier, it is not necessarily lower in fat or calories or higher in nutrients than a regular healthy diet. In fact because people with coeliac disease have to cut out a whole range of food from their diet they may find it difficult to get in all the nutrition and vitamins they need. If celebrities have lost weight from going gluten free it’s only because they have stopped eating a wide range of foods therefore reduced their calorie intake and lost a few kilos. If you think you have a gluten intolerance it is important to see a doctor and dietitian to get an accurate diagnosis and tailored eating plan but if not there is no need to ditch the gluten!