Gluten seems to be treated like the devil of the food world. It is claimed to cause many health problems, some of which are fairly serious accusations. But, is it actually bad for you or not?
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What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.
Who is it bad for?
Gluten can cause an autoimmune response (coeliac disease) or an allergic response (wheat allergy) in some people.
Only 1 in 100 people have coeliac disease and even fewer people have a true wheat allergy. These small groups of people need to have complete avoidance of gluten.
What about intolerances?
There is a third group of individuals here – gluten intolerance. Now, this isn’t actually causing any allergic or immune response and it may not even be the gluten which is the problem. In this instance, it is thought that it is the carbohydrate which is found in wheat products known as a Fructan.
Fructans are one of the FODMAPs used in the management of IBS. As an intolerance, individuals will have a tolerance level, for instance, they may manage 1 slice of bread but no more than this.
Is a gluten free diet good for weight loss?
Yes and no.
Gluten itself makes no difference to weight and wheat products are actually great for weight loss in a balanced diet. But, we do tend to overindulge in wheat based products – cakes, biscuits, bread, fish and chips, pasta etc.
Therefore, if you have a blanket avoidance of these products then you are immediately cutting out a lot of calories and so you lose weight – nothing to do with the gluten – just the calories.
Is a gluten free diet healthier?
If you have an allergy or autoimmune condition in relation to wheat then yes, a gluten free diet is best.
However, for the majority of people, cutting out gluten means that you are also cutting out many great sources of fibre and energy. Wheat based products are also good for improving gut bacteria and so you could even be damaging your digestive health.
What should you do if you think you have a problem with wheat?
Book an appointment with your GP ASAP. You will need to have a screen for coeliac disease and it is important that you DO NOT cut out gluten first.
If your coeliac disease tests come back normal then you ideally need to see digestive health specialist dietitian so they can ensure you are not avoiding foods unnecessarily which may cause more uncomfortable symptoms, nutrient deficiencies and stress.
Very few people have a true wheat allergy or coeliac disease, but it is important to get yourself checked out if you are having symptoms. For the majority of people, having wheat based products in moderation is beneficial to their health.
If you would like to book an appointment to get specialist advice around an intolerance today then please contact me @ firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07827817013
Kirsten Jackson is a UK registered Consultant Gastroenterology Dietitian and founder of The Food Treatment Clinic. She has undergone many qualifications to get where she is today, including a UK BSc Honours Degree in Dietetics and Post-Graduate Certificate in Advanced Dietetics. In addition to this, she has FODMAP Training from Kings College London University. Kirsten set up The Food Treatment Clinic in 2015 after first experiencing digestive problems herself. She felt that the NHS was unable to provide the support individuals needed and went on to specialise in this area before opening a bespoke IBS service. Kirsten also participates in charity work as an Expert Advisor for the IBS Network. In addition, she can be seen in publications such as Cosmopolitan and The Telegraph discussing IBS as an Official Media Spokesperson to the IBS Network.