Gluten Free – Friend or Foe?

Have you noticed recently, how everything in cafes, supermarkets and deli’s has become ‘gluten free‘?

It feels as if this is being marketed as a new ‘healthy’ diet, or even a good way to lose weight.

Be warned, unless you are a coeliac, this is NOT the case! – There are a few questions that need to be answered here, lets start with….

  • What actually is gluten?  -it comes from the actual latin word gluten meaning ‘glue‘ – in laymans terms gluten is a protein that is found primarily in wheat (but also barley, malts & Rye). Other foods containing gluten may be sausages, custard, gravy, soups, sauces and of course Beer! It may also be used as a food additive in the form of a thickening or flavouring agent and may found ‘hiding’ under the name of ‘Dextrin’.
  • Why is it important? – Following a gluten free diet is the only medically accepted treatment for ‘Coeliac’ disease.
  • What is Coeliac disease? – this is an auto-immume disorder of the small intestine and is thought to affect between 0.5 – 1% of the population in the western world. In Australia this equates to approx. 220,000 people. It occurs due to a reaction with gliadin (part of gluten) and may cause inflammation of the small bowel and symptoms are diarrhoea & fatigue plus poor nutrient absorption.
  • Why choose a gluten free diet? basically the only reason you would need to go gluten free is if you are actually coeliac or sensitive to gluten. It is not a weight loss diet, (this thought probably stems from the point that with coeliac disease it may be harder for the bowel to absorb carbohydrates and fats, with weight loss results, esp. in children) but in fact products that are gluten free often contain more sugar/energy which of course can lead to weight gain (caused by insulin release to balance your blood sugar levels).

However, if you are gluten sensitive or intolerant, you need to cut out from your diet, breads, pastas and many convenience foods, even ice cream & ketchup! Also for vegetarians, a lot of the new imitation meats contain gluten and therefore not suitable as part of your diet.

  • Disadvantages of a Gluten free diet – gluten free foods may not be fortified or enriched & have a lower nutrient count especially iron, folate, calcium and importantly, fibre  -all essential parts of a healthy and balanced diet. GF goods also tend to be more expensive and not as easy to find (although this is changing!). Plus have you ever tasted gluten free biscuits – YUK!!

HOWEVER, if you are Gluten intolerant, you absolutely must follow this diet…or suffer the consequences. It’s important to get fibre into your diet, of course eat your colourful vegies, fish and red meat (if you can). Other great substitutes are QUINOA & POLENTA, quinoa (pronounced Keen-Wah), especially is high in fibre, protein, iron and magnesium with a balanced set of amino acids & easy to digest (look out for the next cooking video from Janine, the IsoWhey Chef, basing the next vegetarian recipe on it!)

Also for Gluten intolerant people beware of alcohol, especially beer as most of these contain gluten (there are a few gluten free ones though!) – in spirits it is thought the distilling process takes it away.

Note: other less well known gluten products are

  • Lipstick
  • Lip balm/gloss
  • envelope glue
  • Certain supplements

BTW – IsoWhey is gluten free, it’s also low lactose, with no added sugar, additives or preservatives! As are BioCeuticals products (see website for details)

So, my advice would be to not self diagnose, but if you suspect you may be gluten intolerant go see your local health practitioner/naturopath & check it out. If you’re not gluten intolerant, there’s no real point in going gluten free. That’s how Ian ‘C’s it!!

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