Coeliac disease – avoiding hidden gluten

October 5, 2007

Although often wrongly thought of as an allergy, it is an auto-immune disease, which means that the body produces antibodies that attack its own tissues. If you have coeliac disease then you know that gluten drastically reduces the small intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients but it can be a nightmare trying to identify it in your everyday diet. Nor do you have to have celiac disease in order to be sensitive to gluten as many people are allergic to wheat. Gluten is found in barley, rye, oat and wheat and it is what makes bread rise so beautifully. But just avoiding bread and grains isn’t the whole answer because gluten is often hidden in foods such as soups, soy sauce, low-fat or non-fat products, and even in sweets. The possibilities of where it might be are endless, but there is a short cut to help you find out if any supermarket products contain it and that is by reading the labels carefully. The Coeliac Disease Foundation list the following phrases to be cautious of if you spot them in the ingredients list:

* Unidentified starch * Modified food starch * Hydrolysed vegetable protein (HVP) * Hydrolysed plant protein (HPP) * Texturised vegetable protein (TVP) * Malt and other natural flavourings * Binders, fillers, excipients, extenders

Non-food items can also contain binders and fillers, and you may have them listed on both supplements and medicines. If in doubt ask the pharmacist to contact the company direct or go to the supplement website and email them for more information. Oh and if you like a good dose of vinegar on your chips, be aware that malt vinegar does contain gluten. A good diet for those with coeliac or gluten sensitivity needs to be very low in processed foods and to include dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, oily fish, eggs and liver on a regular basis.

Swedish research has shown that taking a probiotic supplement can be very helpful in managing the condition, as patients tend to have very different gut flora from those without gluten sensitivity and there may also be a link with candida. If you want to take a probioitic it should contain at least three billion live organisms per capsule and for best results include a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement and take extra magnesium (500mg daily), as around one third of coeliac patients are deficient in this mineral. For more information visit the website at


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