The original gluten free followers were those who suffer from Coeliac disease, a serious immune illness caused by foods that contain gluten.
Now, a cult-following praise the benefits of the GF diet. From banishing bloating to being a miracle way to lose weight, it seems that the gluten free fad is an internationally accepted positive lifestyle choice.
However, leading coeliac researcher, Doctor Jason Tye-Din does not always condone the use of going gluten free without a medical justification.
“The general perception is that “gluten free” is a healthy lifestyle choice… which circulates very quickly on the internet,” said Tye-Din.
“The irony is that a Gluten Free Diet can restrict essential nutrients if not done properly. You need a good evidence-based reason to follow a gluten free diet, otherwise you are wasting a lot of time, money and effort and gaining very little, if any, real benefit.”
He is aware that cutting out wheat (a main source of gluten) can result in people feeling healthier, but this is not necessarily due to gluten.
“I think that the popularity of gluten free also relates to how many people have digestive issues and irritable bowel syndrome. Reduction of wheat (and other FODMAP rich foods) can be very helpful in reducing these symptoms. The irony is that this beneficial effect is likely to be related to the reduction in fermentable carbs (FODMAPs) and not gluten itself.”
Approximately 70% of Australians actually suffer from coeliac disease, however 80% of these cases are undiagnosed.
How can so many Australians go undiagnosed?
The diagnosis for coeliac disease is a bowel biopsy, which some people may perceive as an invasive medical procedure. Furthermore, most people follow a gluten free diet on the advice of a friend or google, and so do not feel that a conclusive diagnosis is essential.
Dr Tye-Din emphasises the importance of obtaining a medical diagnosis before going gluten free.
“It is actually a very easy and straight forward procedure that takes about 8-10 minutes whilst the person is asleep,” he said. “However, people need to be consuming gluten for an accurate diagnosis, so pre-emptively cutting out gluten obstructs proper diagnosis of coeliac disease.”
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein composite that exists in grains, it is made up of two proteins called prolamins and glutelins. The prolamins found in wheat, barley and rye are harmful to sufferers of coeliac disease, as well as those with non-coeliac gluten intolerance.
Unexpected Sources of Gluten
- soy sauce
- soups (if wheat flour is used as a thickener)
- oats (in some cases)
- processed meat (wheat flour is often used as a thickener)
- mustard (some contain wheat flour)