Are you following a gluten free diet?
There is a growing trend to give up gluten, and with the shelves full of gluten free products there is a marketing campaign to push more people to give it up.
If you feel like you react to bread and pasta, it may be worth trying a strict elimination controlled diet for 8 weeks to see what difference it makes to your symptoms.
IMPORTANT Before you give up gluten it might be worth getting a coeliac test from your doctor. To get a result from your test you must have gluten in your diet for six weeks.
So if you give up gluten, and THEN feel better, you’re not going to want to add it back in again for six weeks just to get the test.
To properly do an elimination diet you need to be strict.
If you don’t completely cut gluten out of your diet then you won’t be able to judge if you need to give it up longer term.
There are various reasons why people give up gluten:
- Coeliac Disease – where the body reacts to the protein in gluten and even a tiny amount (20 parts per million) can damage the gut lining. It’s really important to follow a strict gluten free diet.
- Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) – there are no bio-markers to diagnose this, but we know that some people react the eating foods with gluten in. You may experience digestive issues like bloating, constipation, or gas, or systemic issues like brain fog, skin problems or sleep disruptions.
- Wheat allergy – you can develop an allergy to wheat, but may be ok with other forms of gluten (e.g. spelt, rye, barley)
Should you go gluten free?
Some people feel better when they stop eating gluten, and it can be for a number of reasons:
- You’ve cut out the cakes, biscuits and bread you were eating. There is less junk around you ‘can’ eat.
- You’re focused on a new way of eating, noticing what you eat and choosing food more consciously
- Whenever we spend time on improving our diet we become more in tune with what our body is telling us
- You were reacting to gluten
There is no reason for most people to live a gluten free life
Wholegrains like spelt, wheat, and rye are particularly healthy foods. Going gluten free doesn’t necessarily equate healthier.
Junk food that happens to be gluten free isn’t any healthier than that which contains gluten
The reason whole grains are so healthy is down to the high fibre content.
If you’re removing most bread, pasta and cereals from your diet you’re probably cutting down on your fibre. And most of us don’t eat enough fibre so it’s important to consider where your is now coming from.
Importance of fibre on a gluten free diet
Fibre helps to keep us fuller for longer, support colon health and bulks out the stool to help regular movements. Without fibre on a gluten free diet we will be starving the good bacteria in the gut.
Gut microbes interact with our immune system, make our hormones and vitamins, so we need to look after them.
A healthy gluten free diet
I sometimes recommend my clients try a gluten free diet if their symptoms warrant it.
It’s very important to concentrate on getting enough fibre from gluten free sources to feed the gut microbes and keep digestion functioning normally.
Concentrate on eating foods that are naturally gluten free rather than processed alternatives (e.g. gluten free bread and pasta).
Eat lots of pulses (beans and legumes) as well as fruits and vegetables.
Your Action Points – Healthy gluten free diet tips
If you need to give up gluten you can stay healthy by following these tips:
- Include gluten free whole grains in your diet (brown, rice, quinoa, buckwheat, oats). Check these are certified gluten free if you have coeliac disease.
- Minimise filling up on gluten free alternative products as these are often low in fibre, and high in additives
- Aim for at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, add an extra one to each meal
- Bulk up meals with beans or lentils (add tin of beans to your pies, chilli’s and curries)
- Snack on nuts and seeds or add them to meals (e.g. sprinkle on breakfast cereals)
- Eat oats for breakfast (if tolerated)
- Include the skins of fruit and veg as this increases the fibre (e.g. don’t peel apples, scrub clean but don’t peel carrots)
- Snacks – Popcorn 28g – 2.8g fibre
Hi I'm Anna Mapson, registered Nutritionist (mBANT, CNHC). I specialise in all things ‘digestive health’ and I help people with their IBS symptoms.
I can help you to:
- track your symptoms in a really simple but meaningful way to understand them better
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- access group support to make long lasting changes to your digestive health
“Anna is amazing! I feel totally transformed"
To find more about out how I work and how I’ve helped people just like you, see my IBS Diet support page