More and more people are eating gluten-free these days, but why? Well, there are many reasons. For some, it is due to a serious gluten intolerance such as those with Coeliac disease. For others it is more of a sensitivity to gluten, whereby their digestive system is disrupted by eating gluten-containing foods, and as such, suffer generalised symptoms such as bloating, abdominal discomfort or pain, and constipation or diarrhoea.
But what is gluten, and why does it cause symptoms? Gluten is the name given to a group of proteins, including gliadin and glutenin, within certain grains. Its presence is highest in wheat but is also within barley and rye, and to a lesser extent in oats. In simple terms, gluten tends to irritate the intestinal wall and coat its lining, which can consequently inhibit absorption of some nutrients and create some abdominal discomfort. There is also an immune system response for some individuals (particularly for Coeliac sufferers) that causes the body to have a reaction to any gluten-containing food, further exacerbating inflammation within the gut and sometimes leading to symptoms such as muscle aches, headaches and even mood disturbance.
To think of its effect in the digestive tract, think of how it acts in foods. It is used to give elasticity to dough for baking, reacting with yeast to form pockets of air (mmm... light, fluffy bread and pizza dough and airy cakes!). Imagine that in your gut though, sticky and elastic and creating gas...
Ok, not intending to put you all off gluten-containing foods. It's simply a matter of moderation for most. And there are plenty of ways to improve its digestibility. Choosing sourdough helps as the grain is 'pre-digested' by the starter culture, making it easier to tolerate. Also ensuring you have an overall healthy diet, especially keeping on top of your probiotic (the good intestinal bugs) intake from natural yoghurt, fermented foods, and supplements if you need. Also including paw paw and pineapple in your diet for naturally occurring enzymes that help with digestion and reducing inflammation.
For those that are truly intolerant though, avoidance is key and there are now lots of gluten-free foods available that are delicious and don't leave you feeling like you are missing out. If you know someone who is gluten-free and would like to purchase them a gift for their birthday, a housewarming, Christmas, or any other reason, then why not consider our Gluten Free Deluxe hamper.