Gluten is a mixture of proteins found in wheat and related grains such as rye and barley. Eating gluten free has become very common over the last 10 years. The most common reason for this is because more people are getting diagnosed with Coeliac disease. Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage of the small intestine. Currently, 1 in 100 people have a diagnosis of Coeliac disease in Ireland. However, it is believed to be a significantly under diagnosed disease.

A few days ago a well-known cafe owner made a statement that for customers to receive gluten free food in his cafe they need to prove they are Coeliac. This raises questions on why people choose to eat a gluten free diet even when they don’t have a diagnosis of Coeliac disease. It is also very common for people to want to reduce their intake of gluten.

I thank this cafe owner for bringing this topic to light because I think he is stating what a lot of people believe but don’t say it aloud. My motivation to write this article is to give people a wider perspective on this topic.

As stated above, people who are Coeliac have an autoimmune condition, meaning they have a severe reaction to gluten when consumed. There is also such a thing as non-Coeliac sensitivity to gluten, meaning these people do not often have severe reactions when they eat gluten, but they can still experience symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, low energy, and joint pain after eating it or as a delayed reaction.

Then there is a third category I have termed “just feel better without gluten”. It is not scientifically proven. I did not conduct randomised controlled placebo trials. I’ve used my own personal experience of how I feel after eating gluten, listened to my clients, and had 10 years of nutritional study to call upon. I’m trusting my gut.

There are many factors that influence how a person can feel after eating gluten. Some include:

    • How much gluten is eaten in one sitting
    • Whether the person is relaxed or stressed while eating
    • What type of grain the gluten is in. Modern wheat compared to traditional wheat such as spelt can affect people differently. Also non-wheat grains such as rye can give a different end result.
    • The health of the person’s digestive system

As with many health issues people experience, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Sometimes there is no test or scientific evidence to tell us a definite yes or no answer, this is one of those times.

I advise my clients to tune into their bodies after eating and identify what clues this gives them. We need to remember that health isn’t about having no symptoms or pain, but about feeling our best. If our energy drops after taking in certain foods that contain gluten, we have a choice not to eat this. We don’t need a diagnosis or a Doctor’s cert to tell us not to eat a certain food. Food has changed so much in the last 50 years and our digestive systems are struggling to keep up. We know our bodies best and we need to listen to what messages it gives us.

Another important point to make when it comes to gluten is what to eat instead if you decide you feel better without it. Food manufacturers have jumped on the bandwagon and have come up with every gluten-free alternative imaginable. A lot of this is highly processed and can include high amounts of sugar, therefore meaning you often don’t feel the benefits of not having gluten.

My simple advice is to mainly stick to the naturally gluten free foods such as vegetables, fruit, eggs, fish, meat, dairy, rice, seeds and nuts.

Thank you cafe owner for bringing this topic to light as it highlights the misinformation about gluten and its effects on our individual bodies

Trust your gut.