The gluten-free market is growing globally. In the UK, for example, Waitrose reports an increase in sales of g-free kitchen cupboard staples, up 25% in the past year alone and an amazing increase of 105% on frozen foods.
What is Gluten?
The grains wheat, barley, rye, spelt and triticale all contain the gluten protein and it may also be found in oats (by cross-contamination only). It is contained in bread, cakes, pastries and pasta. It may be a hidden ingredient in sweets, chocolates, processed foods, sauces and gravies, soups and even in prescription medications and over the counter supplements and medicines.
For those with celiac disease, this protein must be avoided as it leads to an autoimmune response, damaging the lining of the intestine and causing problems with the absorption of essential vitamins and minerals from the diet. In fact, coeliac disease is often diagnosed during investigation of another health problem such as anaemia or osteoporosis for example.
Why Has Living Gluten-Free Become So Popular?
The theory is, that man developed as a hunter-gatherer, not as a cultivator of cereal crops so gluten is a relative newcomer to our diets and some of us are not able to digest it effectively.
For those who are coeliac and have to follow a g-free diet for the sake of their health, it’s a ‘no-brainer’. For others, an intolerance can cause unpleasant symptoms after eating a meal containing gluten. However, there is a rapidly growing number of people who are neither coeliac, nor gluten intolerant, but who attest to the health benefits of removing this protein from their diet. Reasons for deciding to opt for the free-from option are varied but in the main, people believe that being ‘g-free’ can help with:
- Mental Health – alleviate stress, depression, and improve mental clarity and cognitive function
- Physical Health – alleviate joint pain, asthma and improve skin health
- Some believe that eating gluten-free will help them to lose weight, or that these foods have a higher nutritional value
The Possible Downsides Of Following A Gluten-free Diet
With up to 30% of us now choosing the g-free option, it is no wonder that supermarkets are stocking their shelves, chillers and freezer cabinets, with an ever-widening selection of foods free from gluten.
However, many of the pre-prepared ‘Free From’ foods such as biscuits, cakes, desserts and ready meals are high in sugar and/or fat to add taste and texture. Any reliance of processed and pre-prepared foods can leave individuals susceptible to deficiencies in essential dietary fibre, calcium and potassium, and vitamins (particularly, vitamins B-12 and D3).
In addition, coeliacs and those with an intolerance often gain weight when they switch to a g-free diet, because the damage to their intestines heals and they absorb food better.
Cost can be an issue for many – as, although the growing popularity of gluten-free foods is driving costs down, many products cost more than twice that of their ‘regular’ equivalents. For example, in a UK supermarket a 560g loaf of Warburtons sliced, seeded gluten-free bread will cost around £3.00 (53.6p per 100g) – whereas, a ‘regular’ 400g Warburtons seeded batch loaf will cost 85p (only 21.3p per 100g) – making the g-free option 2.5 times the cost of the regular option!¹
Help and Advice
Even for those who follow a gluten-free diet on medical advice, it can be challenging to stick to it. Fortunately, there is a lot more advice and help available from dieticians, nutritionists and from websites such as Coeliac UK. If you have been diagnosed coeliac or with an intolerance and are unsure of whether you are doing all you can to protect your health – or if you are simply concerned about whether the gluten-free diet is the right choice for you, please call Bradford House Chiropractic today, on 01962 861188. Winchester Chiropractor, Max Atkinson will be pleased to give you recommendations on whom to consult for the right advice in your own situation.
¹ Cost comparison is taken from the Waitrose website at the time of writing this article, November 2016