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How do I know if I'm Gluten intolerant and what does it all really mean?

Step this way for (Gluten) free advice.

What does it all mean?
What does it all mean?

Updated at 08.00

THE WORD ‘GLUTEN’ has caused the most debate and confusion in the nutrition world than any other word.

Some people need to avoid it like the plague, some people want to give it up because it’s the popular thing to do these days and others just don’t know what it is.

Here is a simple breakdown.

Let’s firstly break down what gluten is, where we find it and how it may affect you.

Gluten essentially is the name given to a tiny bunch of protein found in grains, especially wheat. Gluten adds elasticity to dough. It makes bagels and breads chewy, pizza dough stretchy, and pasta noodles elastic.

So generally, we take in gluten from carbohydrates but it is also found in many food additives in highly processed foods coming in the form of MSG and emulsifiers.

Nobody digests gluten and it has no benefit for us to ingest. It passes through many people without any signs or symptoms of distress. However, gluten intolerance is one of the highest food intolerances in the world, with Ireland ranking particularly high on this scale.

Signs of gluten intolerance include diarrhoea, bloating and flatulence amongst others.

The issue in those with gluten intolerance occurs in the intestines where gluten can weaken the intestinal walls allowing other pathogens and antigens into the blood stream.

Coeliac disease is when something is totally intolerant to gluten whereas others may be sensitive to it and not suffer as much.

How do I know if I am intolerant?

Food KitchenWise Gluten Free Pizza Margherita There are plenty of gluten-free alternatives out there. Source: AP/Press Association Images

It can be hard to diagnose this intolerance as some of the symptoms may be small or trigger other responses in the body making it hard to identify. Some of the signs and symptoms included above are the most obvious signs. It is best to go to your GP if you are suffering from any of these symptoms. If you are unsure, cut out gluten containing foods and slowly reintroduce them to see if they cause a reaction.

Should I give up Gluten?

Generally it’s recommended the general population to avoid gluten where possible, obviously if you have any symptoms or signs of intolerance, avoid altogether.

The best carbohydrate sources that we recommend, such as potato, rice, quinoa and oats are gluten free so if you choose these then you improve your food quality and also avoid gluten too.

Some people are perfectly healthy and happy consuming gluten so if that is case they may not need to change it.

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What about athletes?

The first things to consider are the points above. The removal of gluten has not been shown to have any effect on performance for those that do not suffer from intolerance.

So, it’s not a deal breaker for us if an athlete suffers from no adverse effects of gluten and is performing well. Performance and success will always rank number one in sport, and athlete’s respond well to things that will enhance performance and not so well to things that do not enhance performance.

For athletes, it is best to work on an individual basis to see what suits instead of a one size fits all approach.

FDA Gluten Labeling Remember, just because it's gluten-free doesn't necessarily mean it's healthier. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Is gluten free best?

This is the biggest misconception and frustrating thing about the whole gluten free trend. It is very important to remember that gluten free cookies are still cookies! They still contain all of the sugars that should make you avoid them in the first place!

It is just a marketing ploy by companies to confuse people into thinking that gluten free is healthy by default. Gluten itself does not cause weight gain so a food doesn’t automatically become healthy once we remove gluten.

In association with Elite Physical Prep. Check out their websiteTwitter or Facebook for more information.

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