A few years back, gluten free options were few and far between for those who needed them.
The bread was crumbly, the pasta non-existent and forget it if you wanted to find menu items that catered for your food intolerance.
Now gluten free products are mainstream. Entire supermarket sections are dedicated to them and even the local pizza joints have the option of gluten-free base more often than not.
So what's the go with gluten free eating; should we all be doing it and is it actually healthier?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat and some grains including barley and rye. It is estimated that 1 per cent of the population have coeliac disease, an auto-immune condition which attacks the small intestine when gluten is present, for which a gluten-free diet is the primary management plan.
The symptoms of coeliac disease can be very similar to that of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, with constipation, bloating, and abdominal discomfort common to both disorders. One of the main differences though, is that unlike IBS, coeliac disease means that individuals cannot tolerate any gluten, whereas individuals who suffer from IBS can have a range of symptoms that differ widely depending on levels of tolerance, stress and other external factors.
There is generally not one food or nutrient that will completely fix IBS, unlike coeliac disease where it is imperative that suffers avoid all gluten in their diet.
While many people think that gluten is the cause of their gut issues, often it is the sugars found in wheat as opposed to the protein gluten actually causing gut issues including bloating and wind.
These individuals will benefit from a low FODMAP diet as opposed to eating gluten free. It is also important to remember that auto-immune conditions including coeliac disease, PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and thyroid dysfunction tends to run in families so it will serve all family members to be tested for coeliac disease if anyone is showing symptoms.
Importantly, a diagnosis of coeliac disease can be masked if your diet is relatively low in gluten as you avoid bread, pasta and cereal grains.
For a correct diagnosis you will need to eat foods that contain gluten prior to being tested. Another telling sign is that a true coeliac will experience negative symptoms from even a slight trace of gluten compared to someone with "gluten intolerance" who will generally not react as strongly to small amounts of gluten in their diet.