Following a gluten-free diet doesn't have to mean eating tasteless, boring food. A revolution in the way we think about gluten-free has meant an explosion in food products suitable for people who are looking to remove gluten from their diets.
Traditionally, a gluten-free diet was a medically-prescribed diet for people diagnosed with coeliac disease. Whilst about 1 in 100 people have coeliac disease in the UK (though only 10-15% are diagnosed), the number is rising year on year.
In addition, more and more non-coeliacs are starting to follow a gluten-free diet to improve their health and wellbeing. In fact, new research has found that there is a spectrum of intolerance to gluten, with coeliac disease at one end of the scale, non-sensitivity at the opposite end, and other intolerances to gluten falling somewhere in between.
If you have only a mild gluten intolerance, you might be able to eat small amounts of gluten without any negative effect. In contrast, diagnosed coeliacs have to follow a lifelong diet completely free from gluten to prevent any further damage to their gastrointestinal (GI) tracts, caused by an autoimmune response to gluten in their bodies.
The good news is that removing gluten from the diet of a coeliac can result in complete recovery for the GI system, and disappearance of all symptoms. Support is key, and organisations such as [Coeliac UK] provide an invaluable wealth of information about living without gluten. With over 50,000 members, this is by far the biggest, and most comprehensive, source of information on following a gluten-free diet.
But how easy is it to actually live gluten-free? Some foods are naturally gluten free, like rice, potatoes, fish, meat, fruit and vegetables, and now there are also a whole raft of gluten-free products that allow people avoiding gluten to eat many of the same foods as everyone else. Compared to the foods on offer back in the 1960s, when Coeliac UK was first formed, the choices now are vast, and it's getting much easier to follow a gluten-free lifestyle.
Some gluten-free foods are available on prescription - usually staples like bread, pasta and flour mixes. To supplement these products, many supermarkets and online retailers also sell gluten-free foods ranging from cupboard essentials like spaghetti to complete meals like casseroles and curries.
Whatever your reason for choosing gluten-free, you can feel safe in the knowledge that there will be a wide range of different foods out there to maintain a healthy balance in your diet.