More and more people are following gluten free diets. It can be difficult finding suitable foods to eat between meals as snacks if you are on a gluten free diet.
A gluten free diet (GFD) is basically a diet that avoids consumption of gliadin a protein found in wheat and other grains.
Coeliac disease is a fairly common medical condition in which those affected are “allergic” to gliadin.
Coeliac disease is not simply a food allergy, and it is more than just food intolerance. It is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases are those in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. In coeliac disease these tissues are those of the small intestine – although other organs may be affected.
This auto immune damage affects a very specific part of the gastrointestinal tract – the villi of the jejunum. In coeliac disease, the villi, which are important for absorption of certain nutrients, are damaged and become flattened.
Coeliac disease symptoms include: tiredness, breathlessness, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, vomiting, and swelling of the legs which may develop over several months.
The treatment of coeliac disease is to avoid gliadin completely. This means eating a gluten free diet. The avoidance has to be total, even tiny amounts of wheat can cause the disease to return with a vengeance.
What is a gluten free diet
A GFD is a diet that excludes the following gluten-containing grains:
It also excludes:
- all varieties of wheat (e.g. durum, einkorn, emmer, kamut, spelt)
- all forms of wheat (e.g. bran, bulgur, couscous, rusk, semolina, wheat protein, wheat starch, wheatgerm)
- hybrids of the gluten grains, such as triticale (a wheat-rye hybrid)
- some oats and oat products.
So the gluten-free diet must exclude all products containing the grains listed above and all products containing ingredients derived from them – with very few exceptions. It therefore excludes, for example, ordinary breads, pastas, cakes, biscuits, many cereals, and many flour-containing products and pre-prepared meals.
The GFD allows people to eat all fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, non-gluten grains, meats, fish, natural dairy products and eggs, and products and ingredients derived only from these foods.
A gluten free diet is quite hard to follow.
There are however many foods that you can safely consume on a gluten free diet. These include all nuts, legumes, seeds, fruit, meat and vegetables.
Examples of healthy nutritious gluten free snacks are: Almonds, peanuts, pistachios, roasted chickpeas, sunflower seeds
Being on a gluten free diet and not having a diagnosis of coeliac disease
Many who follow a gluten free diet do not have a formal medical diagnosis of coeliac disease. Some people are simply intolerant of gluten.
Gluten free diets are popular because many have found that they feel better generally and healthier when they avoid wheat containing products. Often sensations of abdominal bloating disappear. Some find that their irritable bowel symptoms improve.
If you are going to follow a gluten free diet it is important to discuss this with your doctor and also ideally a dietician.
Some doctors believe that only those with a formal diagnosis of coeliac disease should be on a gluten free diet. This is because the diet can be hard to follow and the diet may have negative effects on health if it leads to an unbalanced nutrient deficient diet.
Other doctors are more relaxed and feel it is ok to be on a gluten free diet even if you have not been diagnosed with coeliac disease. It is still important though to ensure you have a balanced healthy diet. Ideally as advised by a qualified dietician.
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