Is Gluten-Free The Way To Be?

It’s the diet hailed by celebrities to be the latest and trendiest way to lose weight. The major increase in the availability of gluten-free products on our supermarket shelves shows that many of us have followed suit. But why have people become so obsessed with gluten-free diets when only ~8-12% of us are buying these products for medical reasons?

Picture: Miley Cyrus has gone on record saying that gluten-free diets are better for health.

Gluten-Free Diet

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. In order to eat gluten-free, you must remove any foods containing gluten from your diet. Foods which contain gluten include bread, pasta, cake, biscuits, crackers, some sauces, batter and ready meals. However, due to the increased popularity of this diet there are gluten-free alternatives to the majority of these foods in the supermarket.

If you want to stick with naturally gluten-free foods, you can eat unprocessed meat, fish, fruit, vegetables (including potatoes), rice, quinoa and lentils.

Oats are a grey area when it comes to the gluten-free diet. They contain avenin, which is a protein similar to gluten. Oats are also often produced in the same place as wheat, barley and rye which means the gluten contamination risk is high. If you are certain that the oats are produced separately from gluten containing foods, feel free to add it to your diet. Personally, I would steer clear just in case.

Gluten-Free Supplements

If nutritional supplements are part of your healthy lifestyle, there are products available which are gluten-free and completely safe for those with gluten sensitivity.

CNP Professional Pro Recover and Pulsin Maple and Peanut Protein Bars are popular gluten-free supplements. We have approximately 20 gluten-free supplements available to customers, so if you do struggle to find supplements which are suitable for those with gluten allergies, be sure to visit our website.

Medical Reasons For Avoiding Gluten

Those who suffer from Coeliac Disease must avoid gluten for their entire lives. Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition. If people suffering from this disease ingest gluten, it triggers the immune system to attack its own tissues (namely the lining of the small intestine). The damage caused means that the person is unable to properly absorb the nutrients of food and may suffer from severe symptoms including diarrhoea, vomiting, gastric pain and bloating. There is no current cure for this disease but a gluten-free diet reduces/illuminates the symptoms for most sufferers. Left undiagnosed, the malnourishment this condition causes can lead to infertility, anaemia, osteoporosis and an increased risk of developing bowel cancer.

A gluten allergy/ sensitivity to gluten is another reason to avoid this protein in your diet. Research concludes that those with sensitivity to gluten (even those who are not aware of it) have fewer gastrointestinal issues and improved overall health when placed on a gluten-free diet.

Non-Medical Reasons For Avoiding Gluten

Members of the public with no sensitivity to gluten have been trying this diet in a bid to lose weight, increase energy levels, improve their complexion and to feel healthier. If you just eat naturally gluten-free foods and reduce your calorie intake you will lose weight. But if you merely substitute normal bread, pasta and biscuits for the gluten-free versions, it is highly unlikely that you will lose weight.

The other thing to consider here is the cost of gluten-free substitutes. Expect to pay much more for your weekly food shop if you buy gluten-free substitutes of everything you would normally eat. If you are diagnosed as allergic to gluten or have coeliac disease, you will be able to purchase a limited number of gluten-free items for free.

There is limited scientific support for eating a gluten-free diet if you have no medical reason to avoid it. However, studies have found it may help improve mental health, increase nutrient absorption and reduce digestive issues.

If you want to try the gluten-free diet, I would recommend focusing on naturally gluten-free foods such as meat, fish, vegetables and fruit to optimise health and guide you towards your goal weight.

References:

Niewinski MM, Advances in Coeliac Disease and Gluten-Free Diet, Journal of American Dietetic Association, 2008, 108(4): 661-72.

The Management of Adults with Coeliac Disease, British Society of Gastroenterology, 2010.

Coeliac Disease, NICE Clinical Guidelines, 2009.

Siniscatchi M, Iovino P, Tortora R, Fatigue in Adult Coeliac Disease, Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 2005, 22(5): 489-94.

About the Author

Job Role Sports Nutritionist and Social Media Coordinator Qualifications Bsc Sport and Exercise Science Steph has a competitive athletic background which spans 19 years. As a child she performed with the English Youth Ballet and had performed on the West End stage by the age of 10. Her enthusiasm for sport and fitness continued to grow as she did, encouraging her to learn more about nutrition and training. She began using her knowledge and personal experience to help others when she began coaching at the age of 16. From here, she went on to study Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Essex during which time she also received the Most Promising Newcomer Award from her University to mark her outstanding contribution to sport. During her first year of study she was introduced to partner stunt acrobatics and artistic gymnastics. After one year of dedicating herself to a lifestyle revolving around her sport, she was training with the best team in the UK who are currently ranked fifth in the world. Steph has worked in both the private and public sector coaching children and adults from grassroot to elite level as well as providing them with cutting edge advice on how to reach their goals. Steph has received awards for her choreography and has competed nationally and internationally meaning that she can back up her scientific knowledge with a wealth of experience. As our resident Sports Nutritionist, Steph is here to provide the most current and evidence based fitness, health and nutrition information to help you reach your health and fitness goals.
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