It has become more common over the last few years to hear people say they are gluten-free, when talking about food.
Some people choose to be gluten-free, feeling it has many health benefits, and others don’t have a choice, but have to eat a gluten-free diet, due to intolerance or a more serious condition called coeliac disease.
So, what exactly is, gluten?
Gluten – what is it?
Gluten is a protein found in many grains, including wheat, barley and rye. It is common in bread, pizza, pasta and cereal and some ready meals. Gluten doesn’t provide any essential nutrients. It is a substance which helps foods maintain their shape, often described as a ‘glue’ which holds things together.
What is coeliac disease?
This is a condition which can be very, very painful and can take a long time to diagnose. It occurs when your own immune system attacks your own tissues when you eat gluten. This in turn causes damage to your small intestine (gut), making your body unable to absorb nutrients properly.
Coeliac disease can cause a range of symptoms, from mild to severe, which often come and go, including diarrhoea, abdominal pain, bloating, indigestion, constipation and also may include unexpected weight loss.
Although no cure, the best way to treat the disease is to follow a gluten-free diet.
Coeliac is not an allergy, or an intolerance, but an autoimmune disease. It’s difficult to diagnose and involves eating gluten for about six weeks, taking bloods to find out if relevant markers are present. Therefore there are a whole group of people who class themselves as ‘undiagnosed coeliacs’ as they cannot risk eating gluten for weeks to get an official diagnosis.
What is gluten intolerant?
A gluten intolerance, is when you suffer from similar symptoms to coeliac disease, but no antibodies are produced, and there doesn’t appear to be damage to the gut lining.
What are the differences?
With gluten intolerance, unlike Coeliac disease, the consumption of gluten will only cause short term bloating and stomach pain, and it doesn’t usually cause long term harm to the body.
Statistics about gluten
- 1 in every 100 people are affect by coeliac disease, and are around three times higher in women than men. (NHS.uk)
- People can develop symptoms at any age, although most likely during early childhood, and in later adulthood – between 40 and 60.
- Also, people with conditions such as type 1 diabetes, autoimmune thyroid disease, Down’s Syndrome, and Turner syndrome have an increased risk of the disease.
- According to the BBC, about 8.5 million people in the UK have gone “gluten free” and it’s a fast-growing section of an expanding and expensive range of gluten-free alternative foods on sale in supermarkets.
- The United Kingdom gluten-free foods & beverage market is anticipated to witness growth of 6.2% during the forecast period 2020 – 2025.
- The trend of free-from has strongly influenced the population of the country, who can afford to buy gluten-free products more often due to the higher disposable income.
- The increasing health awareness among the consumers in the country is the major factor driving the market of gluten-free foods and beverages in the United Kingdom as a gluten-free diet is a medically acclaimed diet for patients suffering from coeliac disease.
All of Creative Nature’s baking mixes and snacks are gluten-free, so perfect for anyone you know who suffers from coeliac disease or who is gluten intolerant.