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Should We All Be Eating A Gluten-Free Diet?

02 May 2024 - Written by  Jenna Hope

Should We All Be Eating A Gluten-Free Diet?

In recent years gluten free diets have taken the world by storm with more and more individuals following a gluten free diet.

Why Have Gluten Free Diets Become So Popular? 

Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye and barley. In recent years gluten free diets have taken the world by storm with more and more individuals following a gluten free diet. There are a number of reasons as to why individuals are adhering to a gluten free diet many of which are associated with medical reasons. Additionally, in recent years the media has slammed gluten as it’s fuelled hundreds of myths associating gluten with poor gut health and general health.

Since gluten is found in some carbohydrate sources, it’s also commonly thought that carbohydrates can have a negative effect on our long term health. However, carbohydrates are essential for supporting our energy requirements and the ability to function normally on a day to day basis. The misconceptions promoted by the media are also key drivers as to why gluten free diets have risen in popularity. Yet, it’s vital to note that when you’re looking to change your diet or remove key components it’s always really important that you seek personalised advice from your healthcare providers as a drastic change to your diet can increase the risk of nutrient deficiencies and may have a negative effect on your health in the long-term.

Do I Need To Follow A Gluten Free Diet?

In today’s world it’s easy to jump on different dietary trends based on what those around us are doing, yet following a gluten free diet is something which should be carefully considered. One of the most common and legitimate reasons for following a gluten free diet is that it can be used as a management tool for Coeliac Disease. Coeliac Disease is an autoimmune condition which is triggered by (but not caused by) gluten and causes symptoms ranging from severe gastrointestinal discomfort, unintentional weight loss, extreme bloating, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and nutrient malabsorption. 

In addition to Coeliac Disease, non-coeliac gluten sensitivity is another cause for people to adhere to a gluten free diet. There is a significant difference between Coeliac Disease and non-coeliac gluten sensitivity. According to Coeliac UK around 1% of the population have Coeliac Disease (1), 36% of these cases are undiagnosed. In Coeliac Disease, the immune system is activated in response to gluten and even a miniscule exposure to gluten via cross contamination can trigger undesirable symptoms and an autoimmune response. 

Conversely, non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is a more common self-diagnosed condition. NCGS occurs when individuals may react negatively to gluten but they don’t produce antibodies and symptoms are not as severe as those in Coeliac Disease. Individuals with NCGS do not need to be quite as strict with their exposure to glute as those with Coeliac Disease. Often a minute amount of gluten is unlikely to cause discomfort. NCGS is a common self-diagnosis which drivers individuals ro remove gluten from their diet. In reality, more and more individuals are experiencing poor gut health, which is often as a result of our ultra-processed, high sugar diets and high stress lifestyles rather than gluten itself. However, as the media and social media has demonised gluten going gluten free is often perceived to be an easy dietary adaptation to make. Since our gut health can be hugely complex and in many cases simply following a gluten free diet isn’t always the answer. The symptoms of NCGS can cross over with the symptoms seen in irritable bowel syndrome in which case personalised management techniques are important. If you’re concerned about any gut symptoms it’s recommended to seek personalised professional advice.

How Can I Eat A Healthy Gluten Free Diet? 

As gluten free diets have risen in popularity, the food industry has become more and more creative in their production of gluten free products. However, many gluten free products can be ultra processed and high in artificial sweeteners, flavourings, sugars and saturated fats. 

You can absolutely follow a healthy gluten free diet but you’re far better off to focus on wholefoods rather than ultra-processed gluten free products. Wholefoods which should be incorporated into a gluten free diet include: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, good quality animal products and some naturally gluten free grains such as spelt, quinoa and rice. As rice is naturally gluten free it’s often a staple in gluten free diets and is a great source of carbohydrates and fibre. Tilda rice is super versatile and can be used in salads, soups, stews, curries and homemade gluten free puddings too! Tilda Rice Mlk is also a really delicious gluten free milk alternative which can be included in porridge, baked goods, teas and coffees too. Often desserts can be one of the biggest challenges when following a gluten free diet but homemade rice puddings, yoghurt with nut butter and berries and date and nut bars can be delicious and nutritious gluten free alternatives.

Should We All Be Eating A Gluten-Free Diet?

Overall it’s important to note that despite gluten free diets having risen in popularity they should be adhered to with caution and should often be conducted under the advice from a healthcare professional. For those who need to consume a gluten free diet, you’re far better off focussing on wholefoods rather than filling your cupboards with ultra-processed gluten free products.

1.Coeliac disease FAQs – Coeliac UK