Since starting this website there have been many articles boasting the health benefits of going gluten-free and arguing them too. It is hard to figure out, as a person with the coeliac disease, exactly how to feel about this.
Obviously, for those who have the coeliac disease, this is a moot point. There is no argument, you have coeliac disease you have to be on a gluten-free diet. Despite the emotional experience of being diagnosed with a chronic disease, it is one of the very few diseases which leaves the treatment solely in the sufferer’s hands. You have the power to recover and improve your health, so only you are to blame if you cannot say ‘no’ to the temptation of a glutenous baked good or the occasional beer. That is obviously simplifying it but there is no medicinal cure and once diagnosed the doctor will just leave you to it with a 6 monthly check up.
Then there is gluten intolerance and many coeliacs can empathize with those who suffer from it. Purely because many of them went through similar symptoms and can still be plagued with other intolerances for years after being diagnosed because the body is recovering and can’t always digest things like lactose for example.
Gluten intolerance can be medically assessed (and should be to rule out any other nasties which might be at work). The major problem with the symptoms of gluten causes in those who are intolerant (and those with undiagnosed coeliac disease) have a lot of crosses over with many other ailments and illnesses. It is important to ensure you are treating the right health issue in case there is something bigger at work. In other words, do not self diagnose.
The health fanatic
Now there is a new breed of gluten-free person, these are the people who have bought into the fad diet. There are a lot of stories out there stating the gluten-free diet is healthier, what is evil and you should avoid gluten at all costs.
Here is the thing, it actually does cost a lot to be gluten-free despite this the market is booming. For coeliacs this is great, it widens our choices and means we have substitutes for many products we thought we wouldn’t ever have again unless we made them at home. The truth of the matter is that many of the products we buy gluten-free are convenient. They replace the foods we could once eat as a treat. It is the art of reverse engineering the modern food production industry to make all the goodies we were once able to have in gluten-free options. When it boils down to it none of these alternatives are healthy. A cake is a cake, a chip is a chip and many gluten-free alternatives are meant to be treats with the exclusion of staple things like breakfast foods or stock, which we are grateful to have such easy access to.
No matter how we look at it eating a gluten-free cake is no healthier than eating a gluten-filled cake. In some instances, it is worse because the flours used contain fewer vitamins and minerals but are higher in fat.
Living gluten-free doesn’t have to be about substituting treats with the same unhealthy gluten-free treats. It needs to be about living a better lifestyle. As mentioned earlier in the article, being diagnosed with the coeliac disease is about living a healthier lifestyle, allowing your body to repair itself. A treat is still a treat and we do have them and want them but instead of substituting gluten-free foods for the old staples eg. bread, pasta or cake, try supplementing your diet with more of the good stuff; fresh fruit and veg, nuts and dried fruit, eggs, meat, and fish. That is what will make you really feel better.