Gluten is a type of protein found in various forms of grains such as wheat, rye, barley, triticale and kamut. It is present in small amounts in oats.
Why Are Some People Gluten Sensitive?
Some people have an auto immune response to wheat and/or gluten proteins that causes an inflammation of the intestinal walls. The finger like projections know as villi that help absorb nutrients become damaged. This means the person has a greatly reduced surface area for absorption and this may result in various mineral and vitamin deficiencies. This is a disease known as coeliac disease or gluten induced enteropathy or simply gluten intolerance.
What are the Gluten Intolerance Symptoms?
Symptoms for gluten intolerance include:-
- Digestive problems
- Abdominal distension
- Heartburn, reflux
Other gluten intolerance symptoms include:-
- Skin problems like eczema
- Bone joint and muscle pain
- Mouth ulcers
- Mood swings
- Poor growth and development in children
- Weight loss
- Hair loss
- Menstrual irregularities
How is Gluten Intolerance Tested for?
A screening test for Coeliac Disease involves a blood test to measure the levels of Anti Gliadin Antibodies. This test can often give false negative results, especially if the person has been following a gluten free diet. And a bowel biopsy is also done in some cases to confirm diagnosis.
How is Gluten Intolerance or Coeliac Disease Treated?
The only successful treatment for gluten intolerance is to avoid gluten and gluten containing foods for life. This slowly allows the villi to return to normal, and the person’s signs and symptoms will abate. Sometimes after a long period of avoidance of gluten, the person may be able to tolerate very small amounts of gluten.
What foods should I avoid to follow a Gluten Free diet?
Unfortunately, it is very hard to avoid gluten as it is contained in a large number of processed and manufactured foods.
You will need to read all labels carefully, and food additive numbers from 1400-1450 are not suitable.
Beware of foods such as custards, ice creams, biscuits, cakes, potatoe wedges and fries, baked beans, prepared tomatoe sauces, Soy Sauces, Black Bean sauce, instant packet mixes, commercial cereals, lollies, beer, ale and largers, coffee substitutes, and avoid battered and crumbed food.
What food can I can I eat then?
Buckwheat flour (this is not a wheat despite its name)
Brown rice, Basmati rice wild rice, maize, corn, quinoa, amaranth, millet, potatoe tapioca, arrowroot, legumes, such as beans, soy, lentils, peanuts and peas and chickpeas.
Popcorn, Corn and rice cakes, Dried and fresh fruit, Yoghurt (check labels), Tamari (not Soy Sauce is gluten free with similar taste), fresh vegetables.
Gluten free cereals are available but don’t be fooled by cornflakes for example. You have to read the label carefully as most cornflakes are sprayed with barley to give them a better colour when toasted and as barley contains gluten all of these cornflakes are contaminated by gluten.
Try making your own gluten free museli from a mix of gluten free cereals. The prepackaged ones are hugely expensive and you can do better making your own.
Go looking for specialty sections in the supermarkets and don’t forget to talk to your Health Food Store staff about what you can have.
Be positive about your eating habits there are a lot more freely available gluten free foods now. Planing ahead is a habit the gluten intolerant will have to get into. You need to plan and read the labels.
Don’t be uncomfortable about asking staff when you are eating out what ingredients are contained in their meals. Do ask or suggest that gluten free or wheat free alternatives are included on the menu and remember NOT many restaurant staff up until very recently have been very gluten free aware so question them closely and don’t assume they are giving you the correct answer to a general question. get specific in asking what is in the dish.
Where do I get more Gluten Free Information?
Your Central Coast Naturopath, Jill Meredith, can help you to understand your condition a little better – give you dietary advice and nutritional supplementation where necessary as the gluten intolerance often hinders the absorbtion of vital minerals and nutrients. You can phone Jill on 02 4344 2704 for an appointment as living with a gluten intolerant husband has added greatly to her knowledge on this subject and she can help!
With help and guidence from a naturopath who understands gluten intolerance plus learning as much as you can about the condition you can enjoy tasty food which doesn’t adversly affect your health.
Resourses for Gluten Intolerance You Can Use?
The Coeliac Society of Australia can give you more information – try them on the world wide web Coeliac Society of Australia or in NSW call 02 9411 4100.
Good cooking books include:-
- The Gluten Free Gourmet Bakes Bread by Bette Hagman ISBN 0805060782
- The Gluten Free Gourmet by Bette Hagman ISBN 08506484 2
- Great health Food Gluten Free by Michael Cox ISBN 1903258065
Don’t forget to decode those ingredient numbers that you find on packets, a host of danger can lurke for the gluten intoolerant in the ingredients. One good book that is freely available is:
The Chemical Maze by Bill Statham ISBN 0957853521