“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” - J.R.R. Tolkien

The moments spent together around a dinner table during long-lasting evenings with cherished ones are some of the most precious. Delicious food, spectacular wine, tasteful table settings, and insightful conversations make dinner parties or lunch dates absolutely unique occasions that cause stressed-out individuals to take the time to relax.

Nevertheless, do you find yourself waking up in the middle night with stomach pains after some beloved dinner parties? While overindulgence may be a reason why some persons have indigestion, another cause that has become increasingly popular in recent years all over the Western World is gluten intolerance or sensitivity. 

There has been much research conducted and foods produced to help gluten-free consumers continue with their everyday life.

In the past decade, dining options and grocery shelf food selections in the United States have drastically changed and become catered to gluten-free consumers. It's intriguing to look back 15 years ago and remember that gluten-free options weren't even a thing, and if they were they tasted like cardboard!

Recently, in the United States alone, over 60% of restaurants have included gluten-free options on their menu to meet the needs of wheat intolerant diners.

The US is not alone in implementing gluten-free alternatives, the United Kingdom, Spain, France, Australia, Canada and the rest of the world have decided to follow the same pattern to stay ahead of the trends and global health issues.

When using the term gluten-free, it is important to mention that some people suffer gluten intolerance while, on the other hand, some may be sensitive to the negative effects of wheat, barley, or rye products. Also, select individuals may decide to take gluten out of their diet to eat more healthily and lose weight.

Without further ado, in this article, we're going to look at gluten intolerance, gluten sensitivity, and whether or not gluten-free diets are just a fad. Why are we doing this? To inform our readers to make a wise decision concerning their health; at Superprof, we care about you!

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Gluten Intolerance

unbearable pain
Those who have gluten intolerance or coeliac disease cannot eat any wheat-based products without suffering stomach pain. (Source: pixabay)

When savouring delicious baked goods, pastries, and fresh bread, some individuals are only thinking about how the wheat-based ingredients will affect their stomach afterwards and not about how delightfully scrumptious the textures and flavours of the treats are.

If you feel like you've been punched in the gut or have sharp stabbing pains after every time you eat a little bit of wheat, barley, or rye products, you will most likely be diagnosed with gluten intolerance upon your next doctor's visit.

Individuals suffering from gluten intolerance usually experience symptoms such as rheumatism, anaemia, coagulation disorders, digestive problems, stomach pains, etc.

What is Gluten Intolerance?

When the term intolerance is used in food terms, it is defined by many experts and dictionaries as the inability to eat a type of food product without adverse effects. Therefore, when using the expression "gluten intolerance" a person cannot consume any gluten products without having serious health issues or concerns.

A disease that is examined and is synonymous with gluten intolerance is known as coeliac disease. What? An auto-immune disorder that affects the intestine, the coeliac disease affects more than 1% of the UK's entire population. It is important to mention that in European countries, 1 in 100 people are gluten intolerant.

Also, an unfortunate tidbit of information is that gluten intolerance is far more common in women than men. 

To be properly diagnosed with coeliac disease or gluten intolerance, you’ll need to run some tests at a laboratory and have them checked by your medical professional to be certain of the outcome. Coeliac disease causes villous atrophy in the small intestine for all affected by this ailment and it is necessary to recover the villi lining; this is done when gluten has been removed from your diet.

However, before we consider more information about gluten intolerance and coeliac disease, what exactly is gluten?

What are the symptoms of gluten intolerance?
Around 1% of the population is gluten intolerant. (Source: silviarita)

What Is Gluten?

Gluten is known as a group of proteins referred to as prolamins and glutelins which are present in wheat, barley, oats, and rye. It is important to state that gluten is responsible for 75-80% of all the protein found in wheat products.

When you ingest wheat-based products such as bread, pastries, and pasta that contain gluten, your immune system starts to produce antibodies to attack the intestinal lining to prevent lesions from occurring. Is that good or bad? Well, quite bad since it means that other nutrients including vitamins and minerals aren’t digested or absorbed as effectively into the body.

Your immune system spends more time fighting than absorbing when gluten is consumed. 

Make sure you don’t get a gluten allergy/sensitivity confused with gluten intolerance; it's not the same by any means. An allergy causes an immune response such as swelling, respiratory problems, or hives, while gluten intolerance is more internal and far more serious.

Find out how to go gluten-free.

What Are the Symptoms of Coeliac Disease?

Therefore, to be quite certain not to confuse gluten intolerance with gluten sensitivity, it is best to become familiar with the symptoms and side effects of coeliac disease.

Though the symptoms of gluten intolerance may vary from one person to another the main symptoms are fairly common and are the following:

  • Diarrhoea or constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain and bloating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Tetany
  • Bone pain
  • Oedema
  • Anaemia
  • Headaches

Don't those previously mentioned symptoms sound appealing!

What can coeliacs eat?
To go gluten-free, you'll need to change your eating habits. (Source: ElasticComputeFarm)

Any professional doctor or medical expert would greatly suggest avoiding all gluten-type products as soon as a serious tolerance has been detected. It is important to mention that the symptoms of coeliac disease should subside after a few weeks of eating gluten-free.

If you still want to continue enjoying gluten infested treats after being diagnosed with coeliac disease, we are certain that the following future complications and problems will discourage you:

  • Intestinal cancer,
  • Ulcers,
  • Sterility,
  • Osteoporosis,
  • Neurological Complications, 
  • Diabetes. 

Just like many serious diagnoses, the coeliac disease should not be taken lightly; therefore, listen to the advice of your gastroenterologist and stay away from gluten if you're intolerant.

How Can You Tell if You’re Gluten Intolerant?

While there are certain tell-tale signs of gluten intolerance such as stomach pains and bloating after eating wheat, there are more precise tests that can be done to diagnosis your systems correctly.

There are elimination diets that work but they may take weeks or even months to receive results. 

If you have doubts about whether you’re gluten intolerance, don’t hesitate to get clinical tests. Doctors, who know what they're doing and not simple tests, will look for the presence of anti-gliadin and anti-transglutaminase.

If the test results are positive, to double-check everything, your doctor may consider an endoscopy to have a look at your small intestine. If they find signs of atrophy, you’ll probably be put on a gluten-free diet for a few months to see if things improve. Once the symptoms are gone, they should be able to confirm the diagnosis and determine if your coeliac or not.

The Cost of Gluten-Free Products

Is going gluten-free a lot more expensive? 

While consumers without a food allergy spend far less quid each month on food staples, those who suffer from gluten intolerance have options available to them at most health food stores and large grocery chains such as Aldi's, Marks & Spencer's, and Tesco; however, they need to spend more to get what they want.

It is important to state that while readily available, products like gluten-free pasta, flour, and cakes are more costly than other products. Consumers can expect to pay between 50 and 100% more for the gluten-free versions of products.

The following table displays a very realistic price comparison between regular and gluten-free products such as pasta, cookies, and bread:

Food ItemsNormal Wheat ProductsGluten-Free Products 
PastaSainsbury's Spaghetti
60p
FREEE Rice and Maze Spaghetti
£2.15 (average)
BreadKingsmill Medium Sliced
£1.00
Genius Gluten Free Soft Brown Sliced Bread
£2.80
CookiesCadbury Dairy Milk Cookies
£1.50
Nairn's Gluten Free Biscuit Breaks
£1.80

All in all, gluten-free food items will definitely end up costing you quite a bit more than your regular staples; therefore, if you’re going gluten-free, be sure to have enough money to pay for all the necessary foods. Nevertheless, at Superprof, we believe that you can never spend enough money on your health; you are your greatest investment!

Discover some great gluten-free recipes.

Gluten Sensitivity

After considering the serious issues of gluten intolerance we will consider the symptoms and types of gluten sensitivity that may affect 1 to 6% of the population in the Western World; however, it is quite difficult to know the exact numbers of sufferers since many self-diagnose themselves after some research and start a gluten-free diet without any medical advice. While a person may not have coeliac disease, they might be extremely sensitive to all wheat, rye, or barley-based products that contain gluten.

An immune system that is fragile to gluten is known by many health professionals as non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).  

What is gluten sensitivity?
You can still eat a lot of good food without gluten. (Source: silviarita)

As is the same for the symptoms of coeliac disease and irritable bowel syndrome, indications of gluten sensitivity appear shortly after eating. What are some of the symptoms of gluten sensitivity or irritation? The following are the manifestations of a gluten allergy:

  • Diarrhoea,
  • Constipation,
  • Severe to mild headaches,
  • Stomach pains,
  • Nausea and vomiting,
  • Partial nasal congestion,
  • Respiratory issues.

It is necessary to state that with a gluten allergy, there’s no antibody response. Also, unlike a gluten intolerance or those suffering from coeliac disease, there aren’t any tests to see if you’re sensitive to gluten. The best way to effectively determine a gluten allergy is by undergoing an elimination diet, and after a few weeks, if the symptoms you were having have subsided, you will know that you are gluten-free.

In various cases, many individuals are unsure if they are gluten sensitive or gluten intolerant; therefore, many visit their physicians or recommended gastroenterologist to take a coeliac disease test. If the tests come back negative, firstly, you'll be relieved to not have coeliac disease, and secondly, you'll just have to slowly reduce your gluten consumption and see if things improve after a few weeks.

We cannot stress enough the fact that at Superprof we are writers/researchers, not doctors; therefore, it is always better to check with a healthcare professional before making changes to your diet.

To correctly identify a gluten problem, keep a diary of what you eat and whether it contains gluten and make a note of any symptoms that appear. Gluten sensitivity is a tough one to crack; therefore, the diagnosis should be done by a professional and based on the symptoms as they occur before you add and remove gluten from your diet carelessly.

Is Gluten Sensitivity Real?

a global trend in health
The rise of gluten-free products is the result of many individuals believing that they have a gluten allergy. (Source: pixabay)

Since it seems that gluten sensitivity has only appeared in the past two decades, many scientists and medical professionals are at times sceptical when a person believes that their health issues and related symptoms are caused by gluten.

Without a doubt, coeliac disease can be proved and is a serious condition not to joke about, health experts often feel more comfortable calling gluten sensitivity a wheat allergy or wheat intolerance syndrome. 

While doctors continue to question and test whether gluten sensitivity even exists, there are several questions that need to be asked to determine if the wheat-based issue is serious. Such as? The following are helpful questions that medical professionals ask themselves:

  • Is the sensitivity permanent or temporary?
  • Is the threshold the same for everyone or does it vary by person and by age?
  • Are there signs we’re yet to discover?

The gluten-free phenomenon is uncontrollably gaining more and more followers. I remember a time when nearly all the people I was surrounded by (friends, family, coworkers), thought that they were gluten-free. Sometimes it seems that gluten sensitivity is an excuse for other symptoms that a person is dealing with or a simple trend where individuals want to join the bandwagon.

Nevertheless, we are in no position to judge other's health problems, all that we can do is greatly suggest that you get medical advice before you start a gluten-free diet that could mess up your system and cost you a lot of extra money.

Find out which foods are gluten-free.

Gluten-Free Diets: Just a Fad?

It is essential to state that in the latter half of the 20th century, wheat became extremely fashionable and its consumption increased more than expected. The increase of wheat consumption even occurred in massively populated Asian countries such as China and India where rice has been king for centuries.

Wheat was viewed throughout the 20th century as a symbol of health and vitality; however, in the 21st century, everything changed. Wheat-based products are now the enemy of many individuals who cannot consume them without feeling some sort of pain.

The decreasing use of wheat-based products provokes the question, have we become more sensitive or has the wheat we are eating changed? 

Should you go gluten-free?
Ask a professional before any major dietary changes. (Source: DarkoStojanovic)

Considering the vast amounts of people going gluten-free and only 1% suffering from serious gluten intolerances such as coeliac disease, we need to seriously ask ourselves whether it’s just a fashionable trend or a something to worry about; especially since the gluten-free market is growing.

Studies have shown that gluten-free diets have become more fashionable in the 21st century than ever before.

When studies have been conducted to question a significant amount of people, more individuals say that gluten causes digestive problems while far fewer of them have any gluten intolerance. Therefore, many have found that a nocebo effect has been found with gluten-free diets.

What is a Nocebo Effect?

The nocebo effect is the opposite of the placebo effect where a supposedly harmful product is harmless. Studies have shown that those who opt for a gluten-free diet believe that products with gluten have been introduced even when they haven’t. They believe they’re suffering the symptoms of gluten sensitivity when actually they are not.

In one study, those who stopped consuming gluten found that 30% of suffered another medical issue such as intestinal bacteria, fructose or lactose intolerance, colitis, or IBS syndrome to name a few. 

While it is common to hear many individuals brag about going gluten-free and all the benefits such as weight loss, increased energy, less bloating, increased mood, etc, it’s difficult to know if these are the benefits of going gluten-free or just eating fewer prepackaged products that are harmful to the health. All in all, to yield the benefits of a healthy lifestyle the following needs to be done:

  • Stay away from processed sugars,
  • Eat dark chocolate when a sugar craving arises,
  • Drink less coffee and more tea,
  • Drink plenty of water each day (more than 2 litres),
  • Try a plant-based diet with more beans, brown rice, and healthful grains,
  • Make your own food at home,
  • Eat or drink vegetables and fruits in salads or smoothies,
  • Drink alcohol but not in excess.

The previously mentioned tips are extremely common and probably what you would hear from a nutritionist or health professional.

In short, if you’re not suffering from coeliac disease, a wheat allergy, or irritable bowel syndrome, you have no reason to go gluten-free; save your money and go eat cake!

How to Find a Gluten-Free Nutritionist?

Nevertheless, going gluten-free is a choice that greatly depends on each person. If you desire to adopt a diet without any gluten because you think it’ll be good for your health, you should probably see a nutritionist. Why? To ensure that you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals that you need to consume and to replace the ones you’ll miss out on by changing your diet.

If you need any help with nutritional advice, consider getting in touch with one of the private tutors on Superprof; there are plenty of talented nutritionists, dietitians, and fitness instructors who can help you.

There are three main types of tutorials on offer: face-to-face tutorials, online tutorials, and group tutorials. Each type of tutoring sessions have several advantages and disadvantages and it's up to the student to choose the type that works best for them.

Face-to-face private tuition about nutrition is usually favoured by many since the tutor can fully focus on the pupil and their health goals. Of course, this does come at a cost and face-to-face tutorials tend to be the most expensive type of tutorials available. However, one must remember that quality comes at a price!

The second type of tutoring sessions is online. Tutoring lessons with a nutritionist online are also just between you and the tutor but the main difference is that the tutor isn't physically there in the room with you. Thanks to the internet, you can now learn online, communicating with your tutor via webcam using video conferencing software such as Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom. It is important to state that online tutorials tend to be cheaper per hour than face-to-face ones.

Finally, group tutorials involve one tutor and several students who are interested in learning more about gluten-free diets. With multiple students, less of the tutor's time will be spent focusing on you which means that the cost of the tutor's time and expertise will also be shared amongst all the students. It is a commonly recognised fact that group tutorials tend to be the cheapest per student per hour.

Don't forget that a lot of tutors on Superprof also offer the first hour of tutoring for free which makes learning with a professional nutritionist about gluten-free diets a walk in the park!

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Daniel