On this weeks Food and Drink on BBC 2, Michael Roux Jr made some casual remarks about how the lists of vegetarian dinners in his restaurants has now been superseded by Gluten-Free dinners. He and his fellow presenters then went on to discuss the gluten-free fad and how everyone, these days was self diagnosing with a food allergy. The comments were naive and miss informed.
Here are 5 myth busting facts about the gluten-free ‘fad’
1. Coeliac disease and gluten sensitivity are not allergies.
Coeliac disease is an auto immune disease (when the body attacks and destroys healthy tissue by mistake) and gluten sensitivity is currently regarded as an innate immune response (a non antigen specific response which is not directed towards attacking body tissue).
2. An estimated 99% of people with Coeliac or gluten sensitive are unaware as they no immediate outward gut reaction to Gluten.
You might think If my body has no noticeable immediate reaction or pain, why worry?
You might not feel it but gluten can be silently playing havoc in your body, there are a wide range of diseases that can be caused by both conditions including: Bowl Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Nerve Damage, ADHD, Alzheimer’s, Ulcerative Colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, Type 1 Diabetes, osteoporosis, Lymphoma, Thyroid Disease, Ataxia, Liver Disease, Neurological disease and Infertility.
3. Often people with Silent Coeliac disease (where there are no clearly identifiable symptoms) remain undiagnosed until they are diagnosed with a secondary illness.
This may result due to a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes, Infertility, osteoporosis, neurological disease etc. Many people whose illness have occurred due to Silent Coeliac Disease or Gluten Sensitivity remain unaware as often general medicine can prioritize treatment over searching for the route cause of a patients condition.
4.There are a vast number of symptoms of Coeliac disease and it can easily be miss diagnosed.
Symptoms can include, anemia, recurrent miss carriage, heavy periods, bloating, skin rashes, anxiety, diarrhea, constipation, vitamin deficiencies and often mild such as brain frog, fatigue, joint pain, numbness . It takes an average 10 years from the initial onset of symptoms for people to receive a diagnosis.
Coeliac disease is a genetic condition carried in many families by the HLA DQ2 and HLA DQ8 genes. It is estimated that up to 30% of northern Europeans carry these one of these genes. At present 1 in every 100 people are diagnosed with Coeliac. If you have a first degree family member with the disease your chances of having it increase to 1 in 10.
5.Many believe the Gluten-free ‘fad’ label is trivialising serious health conditions and creating confusion. i believe it’s also an excellent opportunity.
I understand the frustration if people are seen to eat gluten-free simply to look good or lose weight. This can lead some people to view everyone who eats gluten-free in the same simplistic way, as was shown on the Food and Drink programme. Btw simply eating gluten-free will not make you slim unless you change to healthier natural diet as a lot of gluten-free processed food contains high sugar quantities amongst other fattening ingredients.
Many restaurants now offer ‘gluten-free’ food but don’t always understand how importance of its preparation, accidently causing cross contamination and ‘glutening’ many people with Coeliacs and Gluten Sensitivity.
There is no doubt these are not great consequences of the GF ‘Fad’, however I think it is still an excellent opportunity.
Many people whom for whatever reason might be trying eating gluten-free may well be one of the estimated 99% who don’t know they have a problem. They might well find their general health and well being greatly improve, they may too find it reduces symptoms of chronic illness or prevents them from developing a disease.
We could all benefit from this and in turn the reduction in health costs and taxes that we pay towards them.
And for all of us Coeliac and Gluten Sensitive people, we can benefit from the wider debate, availability of products and places to eat. We can say ‘that’s great you have GF on your menu, can I ask if you use a different toaster, chopping board for bread?’, increase awareness and understanding.
It’s easy to create labels, name call and get upset about stuff but what does that achieve?
By supporting each other we can achieve something that really is life changing.
For more information on gluten go here.
For information on Coeliacs Disease and Gluten Sensitivity go to Coeliacs UK.