So, you think you might be sensitive to gluten? Now what? Surely this means a list of difficult changes to your diet and lifestyle? Well, while it can appear like an arduous journey to becoming gluten-free, there are a few tools that can help you transition to a no-gluten life.
13% of the British population suffer from something called 'Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity' -a term that is sometimes used to describe a set of symptoms that are very similar to those experienced by individuals with Coeliac Disease or wheat allergy, but have tested negative to these. These are typically gastrointestinal symptoms, and can be linked to gluten, based on how symptoms improve once gluten-containing foods are removed from the diet. Individuals who believe they are sensitive to gluten, are luckily able to take advantage of the host of gluten-free foods already available on the market, but what are some other tools to have at hand to make things easier?
Here are four things to consider when starting on a gluten-free journey:
1. Familiarise yourself with Gluten-containing foods
This is the first and most important step when adopting a gluten-free diet. Gluten-containing foods are wheat, barley, and rye, as well as some other, more obscure, grains like Kamut, or Spelt. These grains form the basis for many western foods, such a breads, cakes, biscuits, and cereals, and so it's important to familiarise yourself with what they are in, as all of these will have to be cut out or substituted. Oats can also contain gluten through contamination during production, so it's important to look for gluten-free oats.
It can be easy to get caught out, so having a list of items on the fridge or in your wallet, that remind you of what not to eat, can be helpful.
2. Plan ahead.
When shopping, look for some quick and easy gluten-free snacks and dinners. It's very easy to resort back to something that contains gluten when trying to make old recipes and you don't have the gluten-free substitute to hand. So on nights when you're just not quite prepared, at least there is a back-up. Not all gluten-free foods are healthy -some can be just as unhealthy, if not more so, than regular convenience food, so be conscious of this when choosing gluten-free alternatives.
When it comes to snacks, gluten-free alternatives allow you to enjoy the foods you are used to without it feeling like a complete diet change. Snacks are particularly useful to have on-the-go, so you don't get caught out hungry.
3. Ask for gluten-free options/menu
Most cafe's and restaurants will have gluten-free options. If these aren't apparent, make sure to always ask. Make a note of places convenient to you that offer gluten-free options so there are always places you can go.
4. Look into supplements, such as enzymes that can help with gluten break-down
There are protein enzymes that can help the body process gluten. One of these is called 'Prolyl-oligopeptidase' -an enzyme scientifically proven to break down gluten (in clinical studies). Products such as Gluten Shield from One Nutrition, contain this enzyme. These can be useful if you are worried about any contamination (eg. eating out, aeroplane food, on holiday), or if you think you have consumed gluten accidentally. Even following gluten-free guidelines can leave the average person potentially exposed to up to 50mg (half a gram) a day.
Products such as Gluten Shield are not designed to counter regular gluten intake, rather to act as a back-up or preventative measure. Gluten Shield tablets are designed to contain enough of the enzyme to counter this potentially daily exposure. Ideal to carry around with you, so you are never caught out.
By following these steps, adopting a gluten-free diet might be easier than you think.