With stores and supermarkets stacked high with bakery products and other culprits when it comes to gluten, it’s only in the last few years that a relatively good selection of ‘gluten-free’ products started to fill our shelves.
It’s all very well if you have time to bake all the various food items that contain gluten, but remembering or having the time to bake or cook your favourite gluten-free dishes can be such a chore. Fortunately, with a wider choice of foods you can digest without upsetting your system, it’s now much easier to source more or less what you want.
Gluten intolerance, also known as gluten sensitivity, is an auto-immune disease and does come is several different forms, which includes full-blown coeliac disease. For the purpose of this article, symptoms and management are for the Non-Coeliac version (NCGS), which does not cause actual damage to the lining of the stomach, whereas the more serious coeliac disease does.
Symptoms of gluten intolerance
There are so many symptoms that can occur, so far, in research, it is believed to be 21 different ones! It can be some, most or all of those that affect you. The main antagonists of this disease are wheat, barley and rye, with the most common being wheat. Some scientists and researchers are not totally convinced that it is the gluten in these cereal grains that is the only cause – there could be others.
The most significant symptoms are:
- Abdominal pain, frequent bouts of bloating, diarrhoea or constipation
- Feeling nauseous or vomiting
- Depression, anxiety, stress
- Brain fog, memory issues, lack or inability to concentrate
- Tiredness, lethargy, lack of enthusiasm
- Aching muscles, joints
- Numbness arms and fingers, legs and feet (or combination)
- Skin eruptions or rashes
Even though this list is daunting, the degree of which the symptoms are suffered does vary from person to person and can be very mild or the complete opposite. The one thing that is sure, is that NCGS sufferers will not have to suffer any damage to the stomach lining, whereas in full coeliac disease, this will often happen.
Whichever way you look at it, these symptoms can all be debilitating and cause varying degrees of havoc in your every day life.
Whatever level your symptoms may be, it is important to get them checked out to avoid any further potential damage to any part of your stomach or gastrointestinal system. If you want quick results and a full check of how your body is behaving, you can find how to do that here.
Whilst there is strong evidence that gluten intolerance is caused by genetics, scientists believe that there could be environmental issues that provoke this sensitivity, yet to be determined but currently being researched.
Managing Gluten Intolerance/Sensitivity
Before anything else it is useful to know that the worldwide scientific consensus is that of 20 ppm, which in real terms is 20mg of gluten per kg, is the maximum ‘safe’ level of gluten per day for a gluten-sensitive individual. This is certainly made clear on manufacturers products. Research chose that the majority of countries follow this maxim.
Gluten intolerance does not go away. It’s not like taking a tablet to cure an upset stomach, it’s with you for life. If after a period of abstinence you consume gluten again, the symptoms will return, so stick on or below the safety level with the foods that you consume. Every individual will have a different safety level, so do work that out before assuming that what is said applies to everyone. So called labelled ‘Gluten-free’ products can only be sold at the 20ppm level, and never above.
Safe foods to eat
If you stick to fresh foods, and steer away from those that are processed or pre-packaged, you should be relatively safe in your diet.
All fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, eggs, dairy products, oils and vinegars, rice, corn, all fish, all meats, seafood, fish.
Best choices: lean beef, chicken, turkey, liver, kidneys, oily fish, mussels, clams, oysters – plus the others listed above.
Grains – amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, cassava, buckwheat, quinoa, rice, sorgum, soy, tapioca.
Food items to avoid (contain gluten)
Wheat starch, wheat germ, wheat bran, cracked wheat.
Barley, barley malt, bulghur, oats, rye, seitan, triticale
Couscous, durum, einkorn, emmer, farina, faro, fu (you find this in Asian foods)
Gliadin, graham flour, kamut, matzo, semolina, spelt,
Kamut, matzo, semolina, spelt
triticale and Mir (a cross between wheat and rye)
Gluten can also be in:
Barley malt, chicken broth, malt vinegar, some salad dressings
veggie burgers (if not specified gluten-free)
seasonings and spice mixes
You can see how imperative it is to check labels, tins, any food container. It should be obvious to say that if eating out, always check if they serve gluten-free meals.
It is estimated that between 1-2% of the world’s population suffer from sensitivity to gluten, and it appears to be rising. How or why, it is happening is not so far known. Managing and maintaining a gluten-free lifestyle is totally achievable with all the quality products that are now available to you. Be aware though, studies record that if you continue to consume gluten, particularly over the recommended limit, some symptoms, such as tiredness/lethargy will persist. You can live without gluten quite happily after a period of adjustments.