Whether you are a Coeliac, suffer from gluten intolerance or just want to start cutting out the gluten, it can be tricky to avoid.
Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, barley, and some lesser known gluten-filled grains such as spelt, durum, farro, bulgur and oats (the oats themselves do not contain gluten but can often be contaminated when being processed).
Those with Coeliac disease must avoid gluten completely, but many people without coeliac disease find that they can feel bloated, nauseous, or tired when frequently consumed. This is because the body’s immune system can identify gluten as ‘foreign’, and launch an attack against it [commonly known as gluten intolerance].
Common signs of gluten intolerance include:
- Stomach bloating
- Skin irritation or rashes
- Diarrhoea or constipation
- Irritability and moodiness
- Change in energy levels
- Severe reactions include unexpected weight loss, mouth ulcers and Crohn’s disease
Most common sources of hidden gluten:
- Alcohol – such as beer, lager, ales, and malt beverages
- Cosmetics – certain makeup items (lip balms, lipsticks), and shampoos
- Dressings – thickened with flor or packaged with gluten-containing additives
- Fried foods – either fried in breadcrumbs or flour, or cross-contaminated within the fryer if the same fryer is used for gluten-containing foods
- Medications, vitamins, and supplements
- Processed/packaged foods including gluten-containing additives
- Sauces, soups, and stews that are thickened with flour
- Soy, teriyaki, and hoisin sauces that are fermented with wheat
- Vinegar of malt varieties
- Meats such as sausages that are thickened with wheat
Suzie’s (nutritionist and founder of The Primal Pantry) top tips on going gluten free:
- When food shopping check for either a gluten free label or for the cross grain symbol (credited as gluten free by Coeliac UK)
- There are plenty of gluten free alternatives available – for example quinoa, corn, wholegrain rice and buckwheat. As well as gluten-free alternatives of breads, pasta and cakes.
- Check out your local supermarket’s Free From aisle – you’ll often be surprised by the large selection of daily snacks available to you.
- Check allergens on the food label to make sure you are avoiding gluten
- Avoid cross contamination when cooking – use separate fryers, saucepans, and different cutlery.
- When eating out make sure your server is completely aware of your allergies. You will find that many restaurants now offer a gluten free alternative menu, you just have to ask for it!
- MOST IMPORTANTLY, remember that fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, cheese, eggs, nuts and seeds are all naturally gluten free!
Nearly all processed foods and grains have some risk of being contaminated with gluten whilst being processed so it is better to stick to whole, unprocessed real foods. Become a ‘label detective’ – we promise that you will be shocked when you start checking labels for the first time and realise how many food products contain sugars, sweeteners, additives and gluten. We recommend putting back a food item if you can’t recognise an ingredient on the ingredient label. This means it isn’t natural and has been processed!
In regard to the recent media claims that going gluten free could lead to heart problems, it is important to remember that just because it is gluten free does not necessarily mean that it is healthy. For example, a gluten free brownie and a normal brownie will still have the same amount of fat and sugar – it is just the flour that has changed. People can follow a gluten free diet and still consume white bread, pizza, pasta, cakes, and other gluten free products (which is why it is no surprise that people can be gluten free and eat unhealthily). That is why The Primal Pantry recommends sticking to natural real foods – meat, vegetables and fruit are all naturally gluten free and should make up a large part of your daily diet. Going gluten free should be considered as part of a wider lifestyle change to eat more real food.