You probably think gluten-free dishes are healthier options. After all, there must be a reason why your super fit smoothie drinking friends avoid gluten, right? But it turns out it’s not so simple.
Not for everyone… First things first: gluten is a family of proteins that acts as a glue to hold the shape of food together. It’s commonly found in wheat products (such as breads, pastas and cereals), barley products (such as soups and beers) and rye (such as breads and beers), among a whole host of other foods. But harmless as it sounds, there are people who should avoid it.
“People should avoid gluten if they have coeliac disease,” says Jennifer Shim, a dietitian at Parkway East Hospital. “Coeliac disease is a genetic autoimmune disorder. It’s a condition in which gluten triggers immune systemactivity that damages the lining of the small intestine. Over time, this damage prevents the absorption of nutrients from food. This may increase the risk of other malabsorption related health issues such as anaemia or stunted growth.”
If you have coeliac disease and consume gluten, you may experience symptoms such as diarrhoea, constipation, cramping, bone or joint pain, headache and fatigue.
If left untreated, it can lead to more serious conditions including lactose intolerance, osteoporosis, infertility and certain cancers. “Coeliac disease can be fatal if untreated,” adds Jennifer.