What Nurses need to know about Gluten

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein group found in grains like wheat, rye and spelt, which makes up to be the main ingredient in foods like bread, cereals and pasta. Wheat and Gluten are commonly thought to be one in the same, but that’s not the case: Gluten is a protein in wheat but is not wheat itself.

There are some who believe Gluten should be avoided but for most of us, Gluten is harmless. However, in certain cases, consuming Gluten can lead to serious health issues in some people.

Coeliac Disease is an Autoimmune Disorder in which the presence of Gluten triggers an immune response. This results in the body attacking both the Gluten and the lining of the gut, leading to compromised digestion and poor overall health. Approximately 1 in 70 Australian’s suffer from Coeliac Disease, which has a genetic component and can appear at any stage of life.

Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity is a form of Gluten intolerance that presents in the absence of Coeliac Disease. The person will react to Gluten but the cause of the intolerance is not immunity based. Wheat Allergies also cause similar symptoms to Coeliac Disease, but are the result of an allergy to the wheat grain rather than the Gluten protein.

What does a Gluten intolerance look like? The most common symptoms are gastrointestinal, such as:

  • Abdominal pain

  • Bloating

  • Nausea

  • Flatulence

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Constipation

But other symptoms like fatigue, mouth ulcers, weight loss, headaches and depression may be present as well. If you have or are experiencing these symptoms, see your doctor to see if reducing Gluten would benefit you.

A Gluten Free (GF) diet is the only way to effectively manage Gluten intolerance and its symptoms, but people don’t have to suffer intolerance to choose a GF diet, and thanks to the growth in Gluten awareness, following a GF diet is easier than ever.

A diet with no/reduced gluten is higher is Vegetables, good protein and fat sources. It is part of a “plant based” diet which promotes making your meals up with:

  • 1-2 cups of Vegetables or plants which increase fiber, health and vitality.

  • A good source of protein: like meats, fish, eggs or yogurt

  • A good source of fats like; olive or plant oils, eggs, fatty fish, nuts or seeds

See all the RECIPES for great meal ideas!

Substituting gluten containing grains like wheat, rye and spelt is simple, easy, cheap and at times beneficial. With the abundant availability of products made from corn, rice, quinoa, buckwheat, millet and arrowroot, which are naturally free from gluten. Even pizza is still within the reach of those opting for a no gluten diet! For more information check out the Coeliac Australia website here and contact your doctor.

By Tegan Twentyman in collaboration with Amy Benn

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