By: By Emma Stirling, Accredited Practising Dietitian
Did you pick up a gluten free product on your last shop? In my article on Top Nutrition Trends For 2011 I touched on the fact that gluten free is becoming mainstream. So it's a great time to revisit 5 things you need to know about going gluten free, during Coeliac Awareness Week.
Tip 1: Don't guess
If you've been experiencing uncomfortable gastro symptoms like bloating, irregular bowels, flatulence or gastric reflux you may be tempted to experiment with your eating plan. But before you decide to cut out gluten, including products made from wheat, rye, barley, oats and triticale ingredients, you need to talk with a health professional. You may in fact be one of the high numbers of people, over 150,000 in Australia alone, with undiagnosed coeliac disease.
Tip 2: Stay patient
It's a much trickier process of diagnosis if you make the switch to gluten free before seeing a health professional. We know you like to play doctor, but please be the patient. In fact, if a gluten free diet has already been adopted, some of the tests used to diagnose coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity will be unreliable, and may be falsely negative. We cover off the steps involved in gene and blood testing, plus small bowel biopsy here on The Scoop of Nutrition.
Tip 3: Dig deep
Coeliac disease causes the body to produce an unwanted immune response and attack the small intestine lining. The tiny projections called 'villi' whose job it is to absorb nutrients from the food we eat become inflamed and flattened. As best described by the Coeliac Awareness Week campaign, "Imagine a shagpile carpet versus a threadbare carpet and you get a pretty good idea of what happens". But there's a whole lot more that can go wrong in your gut. You may need to explore the chance of other conditions or intolerances like to lactose or food additives and go through the process of an elimination diet.
Tip: 4 Be appy
Following a gluten-free diet for life is rather complex as the key grains and their components with gluten are used widely as food ingredients. It's not as simple as just choosing gluten free bread, pasta, pizza dough and biscuits. In the early months, a gluten free diet can feel overwhelming as you need to sort through a lot of new food information. The great news is that there is a wealth of resources out there to help like searching The Food Coach recipe database for gluten free. And there's a brand new iphone app by the Coeliac Society that's a handy pocket guide to Australian gluten free ingredients. Over time you will appreciate that going gluten free, does not need to interfere with your enjoyment of delicious food or your health goals.
Tip 5: Cater well
If you have a friend or family member on a gluten free diet, the best good-host approach is to source out recipes that are suitable for all your guests, rather than prepare a separate menu. With so many new products available for people with intolerances, you really can have your gluten free cake and eat it too. Check out the range of specialist products in the health food aisle at your supermarket, local health food shop or bakery, and online stores. Just remember your sister who is gluten free may serve soy sauce at home, but don't assume that other brands are on her approved list. Read these tips plus learn to love labels and save them in your pantry for handy reference when that gluten free guest pops in.
Emma Stirling is an Accredited Practising Dietitian, nutrition writer and editor of The Scoop on Nutrition www.scoopnutrition.com a new blog written by expert dietitians.
You can follow and connect with Emma on Twitter www.twitter.com/emmastirling
The Coeliac Society of Australia.
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