Gluten is a mixture of two proteins, which, for some, can be difficult to digest. People with the autoimmune disease of Coeliac have an immune response to gluten, which causes their immune system to attack the villi of their small intestine. This in turn can cause a myriad of repurcusions for the person’s health which often stretch far beyond the gut. In order to avoid triggering this reaction they must avoid gluten entirely; even a breadcrumb could cause a severe response. Many people however, may have an intolerance or a sensitivity to gluten which can cause less threatening symptoms such as bloating, digestive discomfort, IBS, headaches, fatigue and skin rash among other things. These symptoms may disappear once gluten is removed from the diet.
It is important to be tested for Coeliac Disease if you or your doctor suspect you may have it. Symptoms stretch far beyond the gut and some people may not even have gastrointestinal symptoms at all. In order for Coeliac testing to be accurate, one must be on a gluten containing diet for a minimum of 6-8 weeks prior to testing. It is important that one does not go “gluten-free” before having the diagnostic blood test and endoscopy. Talk to a medical professional about testing as undiagnosed Coeliac Disease can have dire consequences for a person’s health and wellbeing. I have gone through the process of testing for Coeliac Disease and you can read more about that here.
Gluten is found in the following foods:
- Wheat (including spelt and other variations)
- Oats (Whilst oats do not naturally contain gluten, they are prone to cross-contamination, so look for specifically gluten-free variations).
Going gluten-free might seem daunting, but the best way to find out if you could benefit from a gluten-free diet is to put it to the test.
My Tips for Going Gluten-Free:
- Set aside a two or three weeks to go completely gluten-free, with absolutely zero exceptions or cheats. This will give your system enough time to get rid of all traces of gluten, thus allowing you to experience how your body feels without it.
- When shopping, check the ingredients of all foods; many processed foods contain gluten. The likes of sausages and burgers will also generally contain gluten so ask your butcher if you are unsure.
- Do NOT rely on processed, ‘gluten-free’ replacements. Firstly, they generally really don’t taste very good, and secondly, you are unlikely to experience the full health benefits of a gluten-free diet if you are essentially replacing one processed food with another gluten-free variation. A gluten-free label definitely does not always mean ‘healthy’.
- Look for whole, unprocessed foods that are naturally gluten free. Fruits, vegetables, brown rice, legumes, quinoa, lean-meat, fish, nuts, seeds, oils, and eggs, are all naturally gluten free. A naturally gluten-free diet tends to be naturally void of processed food.
- When out in restaurants always mention that you are gluten-free. Nowadays most restaurants have plenty of gluten-free options and are used to accommodating those on a gluten-free diet. All dishes with pizza, croutons, breadcrumbs, stuffing, batter, and burger-buns as well as many sauces and soups may contain gluten, so be sure to ask.
My Favourite Gluten-Free Swaps:
- Pasta: Swap for wholegrain brown rice pasta (I like Doves Farm) or wholegrain quinoa or buckwheat pasta (I like Ogran) from your local health-food shop. Avoid overly-processed, white gluten-free pastas – they don’t taste as nice, have a rubbery texture, and are not very healthy.
- Barley: Instead of adding barley to your soups, try quinoa or lentils. Beer, lager and stout usually contain gluten too although there are some gluten-free options available.
- Crackers: Try oatcakes instead, I really like the Nairns gluten-free oat cakes and crackers as they only have a few ingredients.
- Bread: I avoid most gluten-free breads as they often contain yeast and usually many more processed ingredients. I like the Artisan Bread Organic‘s buckwheat bread, it is vegan and gluten-free, but I would only have it the odd time. You can get it in some health food shops. Whole-grain rice cakes are a good option too.
- Porridge: Very easy to swap, simply pick up gluten-free oats from any supermarket. Porridge can also be made from quinoa or buckwheat flakes.
- Soy Sauce: Swap for gluten-free tamari, Braggs Liquid Aminos, or coconut aminos.
- Baking: Gluten-free baking can be difficult; gluten is what binds baked goods together and creates that lovely ‘chewiness’ in breads, pizzas, cakes and buns. Don’t attempt to simply swap-out your normal wheat-flour for a gluten-free version of your favourite recipe – it won’t always work! Look for specifically gluten-free recipes and follow those instead – carefully! Don’t expect your gluten-free versions of baked goods to taste or turn out the exact same as their wheat-based counterparts. They will generally be somewhat heavier in texture and will rise less. But they can still taste really good!
If you want some inspiration for gluten-free cooking, have a look at my Instagram page here where I post lots of meals. I also have lots of recipes on this site, most of which are gluten-free.
Let me know if you’ve gone gluten-free and how you’ve found it in the comments below. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask 🙂
The Clean Coconut x