Gluten is a set of proteins that exist in certain foods. In coeliac sufferers, ingesting gluten based foods will lead to the immune system attacking the cells which line the intestine. Wheat, spelt, kamut, barley and rye all have gluten, which means many processed foods and pre-made foods will have gluten in them through the inclusion of one of the above grains.
The immune system in people who are either coeliac positive or gluten sensitive perceive gluten as a foreign invader. When the intestinal surface (villi) becomes damaged, there is an inability to absorb nutrients from food. This often leads to malnutrition conditions that can be triggered by pregnancy, childbirth, viral infections, and severe emotional stress or even after routine surgery. If the intake of gluten foods is continued in a coeliac, the intestinal cells will eventually be destroyed. Gluten is found everywhere in our food supply so it is important to understand where to find it and how to avoid it.
When a coeliac is undiagnosed, they may believe they have an intolerance to only lactose, which is found in dairy products. Once a coeliac is diagnosed and begins to follow a gluten free diet, after some time they will lose the intolerance to lactose. That is not to say all lactose intolerant people have gluten intolerance but the symptoms of both are quite similar. Bloating, stomach cramps, leaky gut syndrome, acid reflux, skin problems, nausea and diarrhoea are all symptoms of dairy intolerance and are shared symptoms with coeliac. Other signs of gluten intolerance include infertility, hormone imbalance, chronic fatigue, anxiety and depression. In more serious cases consumption of gluten or wheat can lead to hospitalisation or even death. Your doctor or nutritional therapist will be able to run tests to determine which you have a problem with, or if you should avoid both.
Calcium is a vital part of the body and is hugely taken in through dairy products. If you are avoiding dairy it is important to make sure that you are eating calcium rich foods such as oranges, kale, brocolli or sardines. Did you know there is more calcium in a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice than there is in a glass of milk?
Learning to live with dairy or gluten intolerance will mean living without foods that may have been integral to your diet. The good news is that there are many alternatives to your regular foods. Common alternatives to milk include soya based milk, nut based milks such as almond, hazelnut or cashew, hemp and coconut milk. There are also many alternatives to gluten, so it will be easy to create meals that are diverse and which you still want to eat. Foods such as rice, buckwheat, millet, polenta, quinoa or uncontaminated oats are all gluten free.
One downfall of having such an intolerance is that it becomes difficult to find hidden gluten in foods that have been pre-made or processed such as soya sauce, baking powder , beer
, brown rice syrup, cereal
, coffee (usually flavoured), some dairy products, for example, modified starch in
yoghurts, cottage cheese, chocolate
, and even meat flavourings may
contain wheat. Learning to look for these hidden gluten products will be imperative to making sure the body stays as healthy as possible.
Living with coeliac disease or dairy intolerance is something which requires ongoing work to always exclude these food types food from your diet. Having a good range of alternatives and being organised is a good step in ensuring that you will not slip. After living a gluten free or dairy free diet for sometime and allowing your body to heal from the past intake, you will find that you feel much better mentally and physically.