Do you find that you react to products containing gluten, but your GP has ruled out coeliac disease? It could be that you have a gluten sensitivity.
What is the difference between coeliac disease and non-coeliac gluten sensitivity?
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease where
the only treatment is a lifelong avoidance of gluten. The immune system ‘attacks’ the lining of the gut and the body is unable to absorb nutrients.
Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is described as having symptoms similar to coeliac disease despite testing negative for the actual condition. And these symptoms are often improved by the removal of gluten from the diet.
What are the symptoms of NCGS?
Symptoms, and the severity of symptoms, vary from person to person, as well as in the same individual over time. The symptoms of NCGS can include:
· Abdominal cramps
· Joint and/or muscle aches
Dealing with NCGS
Diagnosing NCGS can be tricky. There are no valid tests for NCGS as the body does not produce any antibodies and therefore testing cannot be utilised.
The standard method for dealing with NCGS is to follow a gluten-free diet for a certain period of time. If your symptoms improve on a gluten-free diet then you may have NCGS. If you decide to follow a gluten-free diet, it is recommended that you speak to a health professional who has experience with this.
Speak to an expert
If you are experiencing symptoms such as headaches, pain, diarrhoea or bloating, it is important to see your GP to rule out anything serious. Often these symptoms can be ‘red flags’ for other health conditions, so it’s best to have these symptoms investigated.
If you have been to your doctor and they have ruled out anything more worrying, then you may want to consider seeking the help of a Registered Nutritional Therapist. This professional will take a full health history and recommend a personalised plan for you, taking into account your health goals and dietary preferences. And guide you through a gluten-elimination diet and what foods to eat to optimise your health.
How to follow a gluten-free diet
If you’ve been told to follow a gluten-free diet it can feel overwhelming to suddenly need to change the way you eat. Following a gluten-free diet can be challenging, as gluten is added to so many different foods that you might not even think of. For example, it can be found in stock cubes, pre-made sauces, snack foods, baked goods, cereals, bread and pasta.
Top tips for following a gluten-free diet
Always check labels on anything you buy. It may take longer to do your shopping, but over time you’ll get used to which products contain gluten and those that are gluten free.
Gluten is an allergen and by law manufacturers have to label any ingredients that are classed as an allergen.
Gluten has different names, so make sure you look for all of these when you check the labels: wheat, rye, barley, malt or spelt.
There are many food companies out there that offer a wide variety of gluten-free options. It’s great that this is happening, but many of these products are high in refined carbohydrates and are best to only be eaten occasionally.
Gluten-free grains include quinoa, buckwheat, maize, polenta, gram flour, rice, potatoes, pulses, tapioca flour or sorghum flour.
Rather than focusing on what you can’t eat, focus on what you can introduce to your diet. You can enjoy meat, fish, eggs, dairy, fruits, vegetables, gluten-free grains, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices.
Get adventurous in the kitchen and have a go at preparing your own gluten-free meals. You could make your own sauces or cereals using gluten-free grains with nuts and seeds.
Familiarise yourself with companies that offer good quality gluten-free products. My Gluten Free Bakery offers some wonderful options, you can buy ready-made baked goods, or they have make-at-home kits.
Following a gluten-free diet may feel overwhelming and restrictive at first, but there are plenty of natural, delicious options which can help ease your digestive symptoms and optimise your health.