Gluten can cause problems in those with Coeliac disease or with a gluten intolerance. It can cause damage to the lining of the bowel/ nutrient absorption and/ or it can result in very uncomfortable symptoms. However, it has been a growing trend over the past few years for people to label gluten as “bad”, or to label themselves as gluten intolerant when it in fact may be something completely different.
Why it’s important to determine whether gluten is really your problem
Restricting yourself of gluten unnecessarily can make shopping/ socialising/ cooking more difficult than it needs to be and it can also make your diet less nutritious.
1. Increased salt, fat and sugar intake
Gluten adds a lot of flavour and desirable texture to food. Therefore, when gluten is removed, fat/sugar/salt is often added to the product to enhance the flavour and texture. Avoiding processed foods will assist in decreasing intake of added fats, sugars and salts.
2. Decreased intake of other important nutrients
By eliminating all gluten containing products, you subsequently reduce the quantities of micronutrients you would normally get from those items. For example, wholegrain breads/ cereals and biscuits are rich in fibre and foliate, whereas the same products based off rice or corn are not.
They are often higher in GI as well. The grain products that are removed are often not replaced by other gluten-free grains; this can sometimes lead to a very low carbohydrate diet, which may mean less energy and poorer digestion.
3. It can be a costly way to eat
Manufacturers take advantage of this diet by bumping-up the prices of gluten-free specialty products. The ingredients and processing techniques also tend to be more expensive and may double the price of its gluten containing counterpart.
4. Socialising is more difficult
Whilst there are increasingly more gluten free options available at cafes/ restaurants, it can still be quite limiting when you go out to eat and not everywhere will offer these options. It is also more difficult when someone is preparing food for you and does not have a good understanding of gluten or are not aware of cross contamination.
Before blaming gluten, why not investigate a little more? Taking gluten out of the diet may often make people feel better but it could be due to other ingredients that have been removed with those products.
Another avenue to look down could be a low FODMAP diet – a diet that is low in certain types of carbohydrates that are poorly digested by some people with an intolerance to one or more of the sugar groups (including wheat which is also excluded with a gluten free diet). Symptoms of intolerance to FODMAPs are often bloating, gas, stomach pains and irregular bowel motions be it loose or constipation.
Contact us for results focused nutritional advice
This article was written by our dietitian Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Nutritionist. If you have questions about nutrition, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns. Contact us today!