All you need to know about… gluten
Gluten! We all know someone with gluten intolerance or celiac disease. But what is gluten? What purpose does it serve in our food? And why are so many people impacted by this naturally occurring protein?
Gluten is the general name given to the proteins found in some grains like wheat (spelt, durum, and atta), rye, triticale, and barley. Gluten can be added to food to give it shape, texture, flavour and added protein. It is also commonly used as a binding agent. Gluten is found in many foods particularly processed foods such as cakes, pies, bread, cereal, biscuits, crackers, gravy, pasta, processed meat, sauces, salad dressings, soy sauce, potato chips, soups, beer, flour, stock cubes, and even bags of grated cheese may contain gluten as it’s coated in flour to avoid it sticking together. It may also be found in cosmetics, laundry detergent, lotions, vitamin supplements, medication, and toothpaste. While there are an enormous number of foods that contain gluten, it is possible to enjoy a full and varied gluten-free diet by being careful about the ingredients in foods and choosing gluten-free alternatives. As well as naturally gluten-free foods, there are now a wide range of gluten-free products available to purchase.
You should avoid gluten if you have been medically diagnosed with celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is consumed. If you have a gluten intolerance that hasn’t been diagnosed as celiac disease you may suffer gastrointestinal irritation after consuming gluten and you should seek medical advice on how to manage this. Should you avoid gluten if you don’t have an intolerance or allergy? The short answer is no. Unless you have an intolerance or allergy there is no need to avoid gluten.
Of course, if you are concerned about gluten, have questions or are considering making any changes to your diet, this should be done in consultation with your doctor and/or a dietician.