By Norma McGough, HFG expert and dietitian at Coeliac UK
It may seem like the current hype about gluten-free diets and foods has come from nowhere. Some people see it is as yet another fad spurred on by diet-conscious celebrities who give up gluten to ‘beat the bloat’. But for people who have coeliac disease, a gluten-free diet isn’t a choice, it’s a necessity.
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease caused by intolerance to gluten. When sufferers eat gluten it damages the lining of the gut and causes a range of symptoms, including diarrhoea, excessive wind and/or constipation, persistent nausea and vomiting, tiredness and/or headaches… to name just a few.
According to recent findings, published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, the number of people in the UK diagnosed with coeliac disease increased fourfold between 1990 and 2011. It’s now thought one in 100 people in the UK have the disease – but only 24% have been diagnosed, meaning there are around half a million people who have a gluten intolerance but don’t know it. ‘It’s a shocking statistic that needs urgent attention,’ says Sarah Sleet, chief executive of Coeliac UK.
However, the rise in diagnoses has resulted in increased demand for gluten-free food – good as more and more products hit the shelves. However, Coeliac UK members report that they have to travel to large supermarkets to find gluten-free products, often visiting more than one store to buy everything on their shopping list.
That’s why this Coeliac Awareness Week (12–18 May), the charity is campaigning to increase availability of gluten-free staple foods in supermarkets. For further information see coeliac.org.uk/gfg.
Heathly Food Guide’s Recipe Collection: Make it Healthy 100 Gluten Free Recipes is out now in selected supermarkets, and available for download from iTunes.