Should we be eating gluten free?

By Antonia Manolios, Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD)

It seems like everyone is eating gluten free these days and there are more and more client’s coming into our rooms wanting to know if avoiding gluten is beneficial.

Gluten is a protein derived from wheat, barley, rye and triticale and is found in many of our common foods such as breads, pastas, noodles, biscuits, crackers and oats.

Certainly, for people who have an allergy or auto immune condition to gluten (such as coeliac disease), it is important to avoid gluten. For the 1.5% of Australian’s who have coeliac disease, consuming gluten can damage the lining of the small intestine, which prevents the body from absorbing key nutrients and can lead to a host of symptoms, including  malnutrition, anaemia, bloating diarrhoea and so much more. People with gluten intolerance state that consuming gluten makes them more bloated, more windy and alters their bowel motions.

But, for the 98.5% of Australian’s who don’t suffer from coeliac disease, gluten in and of itself is not bad for you. The most recent evidence suggests that there are no health benefits in removing gluten from your diet if you don’t have a gluten allergy or coeliac disease.  We have to remember that gluten is just another protein.

However, what has been proven to induce symptoms are fructans. These are sugars which are mainly found in foods such as wheat, barley, onions, garlic and a number of other vegetables. So when someone eliminates gluten, they tend to eliminate wheat as a starting point (which contains fructans) and assume that the symptoms relief is from the gluten elimination.

Our take home message here is if you don’t have coeliac disease or a proven gluten intolerance, eat a balanced and varied diet featuring all food groups. If you suffer with bloating, abdominal discomfort and pain and are considering removing gluten from your diet, seek the advice of a doctor or dietitian. Give us a call and come have a chat!

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