Gluten is something that is found in many of the foods we eat and enjoy every day, although at one point it was something that was little spoken of. Today there is a much greater awareness of what gluten is, where it’s found, and why some people can’t tolerate it in their diets. If you’d like to know more about gluten and gluten free food, or refresh your existing knowledge, then this site will provide a handy overview.
Gluten is essentially found in three types of grains: wheat, barley, and rye. The gluten in these grains is well used, as it gives elasticity to dough, so can be found in baked products like breads and cakes. You’ll also find gluten in beer made from barley, pasta, breakfast cereals, pizza bases, and some other products like soups, ready meals, and processed foods.
Some people can suffer from a gluten allergy (adverse immune response to gluten, where antibodies are created to fight it), or an intolerance, where they can tolerate small amounts of food or drink containing gluten, but would suffer negative reactions if they ate in larger portions. There is also a medical condition known as coeliac disease, which is classed as an auto-immune condition. This is not the same as an intolerance or allergy; instead the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue (substances found inside gluten), thinking it’s a threat to the body. This condition can cause damage to the small bowel, and various long term complications for those who are undiagnosed, or who continue to eat a gluten diet.
There’s no known cure for coeliac disease, so it’s recommended for all suffering from this, or gluten allergy/intolerance, to switch to a gluten free diet. This may seem like a challenge, with gluten found in so many common products, but you’ll soon discover a range of gluten free foods, or substitute items. You may find many of these items in shops, or on prescription. Here’s what to look out for:
Baking: Icing sugar made in the UK is gluten free, and you’ll also find gluten free flours on the market, which could be made using rice, soy, buckwheat or even chickpea. Some health food shops and supermarkets also stock xantham gum, a powder that can help reduce the crumbly texture that gluten free flours often have. If you’re baking though, don’t forget to add gluten free baking powder to your shopping list.
Grains: A gluten free diet rules out grains such as semolina, bulgar wheat, and cous cous, though there are some alternatives you can add to your salads or side dishes, such as quinoa.
Pasta and Noodles: Look out for rice noodles and soba noodles made from buckwheat, which are both gluten free. Hunting out other types of noodles which are gluten free may be a time consuming task, as some are not clearly labelled, although gluten free pasta is much more common.
Al full list of gluten free food and drink is available via Coeliac UK, which has thousands of entries to help you with your shopping, including details of ready-made and processed gluten free products. It’s just a case of adapting your diet to include foods that are naturally gluten free, like chicken, looking up other items on the directory, or sourcing specially made substitutes. Once you’ve made these changes you should see improvements in your symptoms.