Coeliac Disease: not an allergy or an intolerance but an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks itself when gluten is eaten. There is no cure and no medication; the only treatment is a strict gluten free diet for life. Sounds pretty serious, right? For many people it is.
But if you don’t have Coeliac disease, is gluten free really better for you?
When you give up gluten, it becomes very hard to eat many traditional junk foods or other unhealthy snacks. For that reason I could understand the argument that gluten free diets are healthy. “But that’s not what the vast majority of people do, most people embrace the consumption of gluten free products such as pizza, pasta, beer, and biscuits and therefore going gluten free isn’t better for you and in many ways can be worse”.
Apparently one in every hundred people is a coeliac throughout the world. Made of two protein groups, gliadin and gluten, gluten is brought together when flour and water are mixed to give foods like bread and pasta their structure and elasticity. It’s found in wheat, barley, rye and cross hybrids of these grains which, to the surprise of many people, can creep into a whole hosts of foods, including stock cubes, sweets and beers.
When the gut lining is damaged it prevents nutrients from being absorbed, causing anaemia, fatigue, bloating and that uncomfortable feeling a lot of people experience when they chomp down on a baguette or a big plate of penne.
You can imagine then, long term, the consequences for an undiagnosed coeliac can be quite severe. You think you’re eating a healthy diet, rich in nutrients, but the gluten accompanying each meal is preventing your body from absorbing this goodness. Osteoporosis from lack of calcium, stomach ulcers and even bowel cancer can manifest, so it’s not surprising that as awareness grows, millions of people are jumping on the gluten free bandwagon and the market has exploded.
The free-from section has infiltrated supermarkets aisles, restaurants and cafes are popping up nationwide offering entirely gluten free menus and celebrity Gwyneth Paltrow boasting of its health benefits. After putting her family on a gluten free diet, Gwyneth claims to have cured her son’s eczema, and Ella Woodward, healing her condition of “Postural Tachycardia Syndrome through a free from diet, gluten being one of the first to go.
There is no doubt then, you will know someone or several people who can’t eat gluten- whether they are coeliac or whether they are undiagnosed and just claim to be intolerant. To avoid gluten, the most important tip is to cook from scratch, when you can at home.
Don’t just buy “gluten free products” which can often be full of sugar and artificial ingredients.
Most people will know now that ‘fat free’ products are far from healthy; gluten free should be looked at in the same way. Look for recipes which allow you to substitute ingredients and cook freshly, replacing wheat with buckwheat, amaranth, millet or quinoa or soy sauce for tamarin, for example don’t just buy from the ‘free from aisle…. it is not the answer and it certainly won’t do much for your health and wellbeing.
Your wallet will be the first place to feel the effect of going “gluten free”. Gluten free products can cost up to two to there times more than their counterparts, Gluten free foods are more expensive to make because they use special grains, and manufactures have to follow strict guidelines to avoid cross-contamination.
When you eliminate wheat, barley, and rye from your meals, you’re not just getting rid of gluten, you’re lowering your intake of a wide range of other nutrients that tend to come in those foods—naturally or through fortification—including iron, fiber, folic acid, zinc, vitamin D, and more. “When you go on a gluten-free diet because of coeliac disease, you should only do it with the supervision of a dietitian to make sure they make up the nutrients your will be missing. Signs of a deficiency include fatigue, weakness, hair loss, mood changes, constipation, and missed periods.
“There’s no question that if you do it on your own without paying careful attention to filling in those gaps, you can develop a nutrient deficiency.”
There’s another condition that so many people suffer from, and that is Non-celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS). These folks don’t test positive for celiac disease, but when they eat gluten they experience symptoms such as GI distress, foggy mind, and depression. Italian researchers recently confirmed this diagnosis when they gave participants who believed gluten was responsible for their symptoms a pill containing gluten or a placebo. Even though participants didn’t know which one they were taking, their symptoms were more severe when they swallowed the gluten-containing capsule. A study published in the journal Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics found people with NCGS experienced an increase in depression symptoms when they consumed a diet containing gluten.
We’re just beginning to understand the many different ways that gluten can affect the body,” “One of the most fascinating yet poorly understood issues is the relationship between gluten and the brain.”
Recipe to try at home
RAW SUPERGREEN MACAROONS
Sweet, chewy and coconut, this macaroon recipe is raw, vegan and gluten free.
- 200gr desiccated coconut +2tbsp
- 1 tbsp super greens powder
- 4 tbsp raw agave nectar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp coconut extract
- Water if needed
For the chocolate topping
- 3 tbsp coconut oil
- 3 tbsp raw cacao powder
- 2 tbsp agave nectar
- In a food processor, blitz the desiccated coconut with the super greens powder for a minute until well combined. Add the agave, vanilla and coconut extract and mix again. The mixture should start to climb together. If not, add a few small drops of water until it does.
- Prepare a baking tray with greaseproof paper and using an ice cream scoop or rounded spoon, make mounds of the mixture onto a tray to create macaroons. You will need to make sure the mixture is well packed into the spoon so that the macaroons don’t fall apart.
- Leave in a freezer to firm up whilst you prepare the chocolate topping.
- Melt the coconut oil in a heat proof bowl, suspended over a pot of recently boiled water. Whisk in the cacao powder and agave nectar until smooth. Leave in the fridge until cool to the touch.
- Remove the macaroons from the freezer and dip the bottoms into the chocolate mixture to coat. It should set almost immediately.
- Then drizzle lines of the melted chocolate onto the tops of the macaroons. return to the freezer to set for a few minutes, then they are ready to serve.
Shop 1A Abell Point Marina, Shingley Drive
Airlie Beach, Queensland
(07) 4948 0274
Soul sisters Kat Harrison & Michelle Kerrisk have combined forces to create the beautiful Bohemian Raw brand. Finally we can give consumers healthy alternatives to allow them to feel good about themselves while nourishing their bodies. Fairtrade organic coffee, ayurvedic herbal teas, pro-biotic drinks, raw desserts and raw chocolate will be the specialty. Savoury options are forever changing always using the freshest local produce that is available.
Cafe One 3
13 Waterson Way
Airlie Beach, Queensland
0419 783 313
A hidden gem just off the main commercial tourist strip, well worth the short walk.
Community minded, supporting the regions farmers and growers and showcasing local crafts and home-grown products, including handmade recycled furniture, vintage handcrafted handbags and homemade Kombucha.
With a menu inspired by Dr Seuss we are a little different, but then who isn’t.
Specialising in Vegetarian, Vegan and Gluten Free dishes, we are happy to create the perfect meal that not only taste’s great but is good for you.
We welcome you to relax and listen to the chilled tunes, browse through our extensive library of books and enjoy friendly service with a genuine desire to make you feel at home.
We go organic where possible using Mungalli Creek Organic Milk and yoghurts, Byron Bay Organic Coffee and Teas and other products.
Reef Plaza 14 Paluma Road
Cannonvale, Queensland, Australia
(07) 4946 7756
The Betterbody Cafe want you to have fun being healthy with premium espresso coffee, healthy food & paleo deserts, plus incredible juices and smoothies.
Crocodile Cafe & Wholefoods
Mount Julian, Queensland, Australia
0409 061 459
Healthy and smart eating. No set menu – the wonderfully creative Bex Dawson creates meals to suit individual needs, dietary requirements and according to the availability of fresh, seasonal produce. Foods on the menu are made from fresh organic foods and other whole foods (non-toxic, additive-free foods). The cafe offers a variety of fresh organic fruit and vegetables for the public to purchase. Organic and wholefood dry goods are also available.
219 Given Terrace
Paddington, 4064 QLD
07 3368 1855
Fundies serves more or less what its name states – organic wholefoods! With delicious salads, quiches, fresh vegie burgers, and juices, Fundies Organic Wholefoods Café is a great healthy lunch alternative located in Paddington, Brisbane. Fundies is also a wholefoods market, grocer, and health food store, selling supplements, organic fruit and veg, and paleo products.
28 Logan Road
Woolloongabba, 4102 QLD
07 3392 3300
Woolloongabba has really become one of the most beautiful dining districts in Brisbane – with its selection of heritage houses and sprawling antique shops, the atmosphere is second to none. Pearl Cafe in Woolloongabba captures this ambience with exposed brick walls, wooden and antique detailing, beautiful lighting, and a small, but delicious, produce-driven menu. With Daniel Lewis at the helm (formerly of the Gun Shop Cafe), Pearl has a cult following and an unrivaled breakfast, and brunch menu. Upstairs, The Servery is open for supper (wine, cheese, and charcuterie) Wednesday-Saturday from 5pm. Private dining is also available in the beautiful, Roast Room.
Bridge of Allan, Scotland
A deli tucked away on Henderson Street in Bridge of Allan, the people at Simply Nood claim to be changing perceptions of allergen free food. Definitely worth a look then. I had to put this in as it is seriously good place.