One of the main concerns that we encounter on a daily basis working on the shop floor are people who suffer from a number of digestive issues as a result of a variety of different underlying causes.
Presenting digestive symptoms often include abdominal pain and distention, fatigue, lethargy, loss of appetite, bloating, intermittent diarrhoea and constipation, vomiting, anemia, other signs of malnutrition and flatulence. These symptoms could be as a result of a variety of underlying issues such as hypochlorhydia, candida albicans, leaky gut, common food intolerances and allergies, IBS or a microbiome imbalance.
Many of these customers suffer from some or all of the different digestive symptoms mentioned above. They are looking to remove possible allergens which might be contributing to their presenting symptoms. Gluten can be one of the main allergens and therefore it is the most common food group to be removed from the diet.
Our role on the shop floor is vital to facilitate this transitional period in the customers life. In order to do so we must provide knowledge on gluten and how they can successfully adhere to a gluten free diet. Therefore our knowledge and expertise on the shop floor is invaluable.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a 7 chain amino protein peptide found in specific grains which is indigestible by all human beings. In healthy digestive tracts Gluten passes through the gut without causing any harm however in susceptible individuals, eating gluten, a protein in wheat and related grains, can cause severe damage to the small intestine and can lead to a heightened immune response and numerous presenting digestive symptoms.
Some people can have an intolerance to gluten that can cause inflammation of the digestive tract. Over a long period of exposure can cause digestive discomfort and present as IBS.
Alternatively, most people we encounter on the shop floor present with coeliac disease. This is a lifelong allergy to ‘gliaden’. This is a part of the gluten protein that are a large part of the grain of wheat, rye and barley. It causes damage to the small intestine which reduces the body’s ability to absorb nourishment from the foods we eat. This tends to run in families, therefore there is a genetic predisposition.
The walls of the small intestine become inflamed and damaged so that food absorption practically stops, giving rise to nutritional deficiencies. Strict adherence to a gluten-free diet can bring complete resolution of digestive discomfort and symptoms.
At Evergreen Healthfoods our focus is ensuring the customer is aware of where gluten is present so they can prevent contamination of their food, provide alternatives and therefore help facilitate the removal of gluten from their diet completely.
Where is Gluten found?
Gluten is found in all of the following grains: Barley, Rye, Oats, Wheat, Spelt
There are Gluten Free (GF) oats however they must carry the internationally recognised Gluten Free Symbol.
Where is Gluten hidden? What other names are used to disguise Gluten in Food?
This information is very important for our customers as gluten can hide under a variety of different names. Below I have a list of the most popular alternative names for gluten-containing foods. This is essential information for those looking to completely remove gluten from their diet.
It’s important to be able to quickly recognise possible ingredients that might possess gluten. This will help the customer make a more informed decision on products they wish to buy.
Wheat, barley, rye, oats, oat milk, spelt, kamut (khorsasn wheat), bulgar wheat, wheat starch, cereal filler, wheat bran, wheatgerm, wheatgerm oil, semolina, white cous cous, wholemeal cous cous, durum wheat (pasta), farina, kibbled wheat, malt (from barley) malt extract (from barley), malt flavouring (from barley), seitan (made from wheat gluten and commonly used in vegetarian meals).
What about Drinks?
I often get asked which drinks are suitable for people with ceoliac disease.
Gluten Free Drinks: water, pure fruit juices, tea, coffee, milk*, spirits (whiskey, vodka, gin, rum, tequila), wine, cider and fortified wines (sherry, port).
Non Gluten Free Drinks: ales, beers, lagers and stouts.
Although dairy milk is technically gluten free recent research has suggested that people with coeliac disease can also react to casein. Casein is protein structure found in dairy products. Therefore many coeliac sufferers will also be dairy free.
In store it is always a good idea to introduce customers to the alternatives to dairy we provide.
Keep in mind that oat milk is still not gluten free.
Possible Dairy Milk Alternatives: coconut, soya, rice, almond, quinoa and hazelnut.
All of these dairy alternatives also have yoghurt substitutes.
It only takes one single molecule of gluten to contaminate a gluten intolerant person. This means a crumb smaller than the eye can see can harm the intestine of someone who is gluten free. For example if a knife which has smeared peanut butter on toast and then put back into the peanut butter jar, this has contaminated the whole container.
At Evergreen Healthfoods we aim to educate our customers about these possible dangers. Therefore it’s better to use separate cutlery and products should be labelled “GLUTEN FREE” so as to prevent cross contamination.
Some of the main tips that I recommend to customers include the following:
- Keep cooking utensils and pots separate as these can be a major source of contamination
- Label a cupboard and keep all of your breads, flours, cereals and pastas to ensure that they are kept separate
Gluten free should not be looked at as a “diet” but more as a lifestyle change and therefore they will be more willing to adopt it to all aspects of their life and in turn will drastically improve their health status and hopefully improve their overall well-being.