Are you “gluten free”?
Ten years ago, someone who was gluten free would have been in a minority group. You might have been seen as being “a bit different” or “out there” or “difficult” to feed. Today, it’s a different story, with many supermarkets, cafes, restaurants offering gluten free alternatives, it’s almost become embarrassing to admit – yes, I eat bread and I enjoy it!
Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of folk out there who are gluten intolerant because they have coeliac disease. Around 1:100 people have the condition. Once diagnosed, they have to live gluten free, because there is no cure and gluten is toxic to their system. It causes the hair-like villi in the small intestine that are essential to the successful absorption of nutrients in the gut to become damaged. The associated symptoms include stomach pain, diarrhea and general malaise. It is diagnosed by small bowel biopsy and blood tests.
However there are many who have bought into the idea that they are gluten intolerant because they have a variety of abdominal symptoms: discomfort, bloating etc. which get better when they cut out wheat from their diet.
The problem with this is that it is not a diagnosis, it is a presumption and while you may be right, you may also be wrong.
Because those symptoms could be due to FODMAPS.
So what are FODMAPS? These are poorly absorbed sugars: fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. They are found in wheat and in many other foods including onions, asparagus, peppers, apples, dried fruits, peas, honey, milk, ice-cream, artificial sweeteners and beer.
Being gluten free has become trendy and is potentially leading people to abandon a staple component of our diet. Carbohydrates are not the enemy and neither is gluten (unless you have coeliac disease or a wheat allergy)
If you believe you do feel better “off” gluten; breads, cakes and pastries, fine, especially if you have replaced these items with more vegetables and fruit.
However going gluten free does not necessarily lead to weight loss, which is what some gluten free proponents are seeking, especially if the gluten is substituted with high fat foods.
If you suspect you may be gluten intolerant it is essential to have the appropriate medical tests to rule out coeliac disease or wheat allergy and to ascertain which culprit is causing any abdominal symptoms.
FODMAPS are not a new discovery. Dr. Sue Shepherd is an accredited dietician and nutritionist who has specialised in the area of food intolerances and has been working in the area of FODMAPS since 1999. She produced a Lo FODMAPs recipe book which is readily available and used to assist in the management of those who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) I even found a copy in a Coles supermarket recently!
Meanwhile scientific research continues to investigate the link between gluten and other food components and illness. There is no doubt that the food we eat contributes enormously to our health and wellbeing.
As far as wheat and the brain goes, there are some who believe that wheat has led to the current epidemic of obesity and type-two diabetes. There are also those who believe that carbohydrates from whole-grains are linked to dementia, ADHD, anxiety and depression. However, the evidence supporting these claims remains thin on the ground and controversial.
What has been shown and backed up with scientific study, is that brain health depends on eating a balanced diet of vegetables, lean protein including fish, deeply pigmented fruit, seeds and nuts, and whole grains.
Making the best choices for our own health starts with getting the facts straight first.
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