Going gluten-free in the UAE - your complete health guide
Forget about Atkins, and ditch the caveman regime, the new trend to be overheard at the watercooler is going gluten-free. But is it a diet, way of life or simply a fad?
WHAT ACTUALLY IS GLUTEN?
Gluten is a protein that’s found in certain grains such as wheat, barley and rye. Its properties help foods to stay in a shape and, as a result, the texture is chewy. Gluten is often the basis for vegetarian ‘meats’ and can also be found in cosmetic products.
THE EXPERT OPINION
We caught up with one of Dubai’s leading nutritionists, Victoria Tipper from the Dubai Herbal Treatment Centre, to find out the nitty-gritty on what gluten actually is, and why going gluten-free could be right for you
What are the symptoms of being gluten-intolerant? There are around 300 different symptoms, and the umbrella of this ranges from frequent bloating, acid reflux, headaches and hyperactivity to depression. It varies from person to person, and this is what makes it a challenge to diagnose. Due to the difficulty in diagnosing celiac disease it’s estimated that 83 percent of those with the condition are either undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with a different condition such as IBS.
Is gluten intolerance something with which you are born? Celiac disease is a genetic condition, but it’s important to remember our genes are like a bullet in a loaded gun – the trigger still has to be pulled. This means it may not affect sufferers until later on in life and can be triggered by a stressful event in their life, for example a serious infection, pregnancy or emotional stress.
Who does it mainly affect? People of any age, race or gender can develop celiac disease, but there are some factors that increase your risk. As it is hereditary, all first and second degree relatives of confirmed cases should be tested as they are five to ten times more likely to have celiac disease than the general population.
What can be done to treat gluten intolerance? There are no magic pills, so the only way to relieve symptoms is to permanently eliminate gluten, including hidden sources. Even consuming a small amount results in the body attacking itself and damaging the small intestine. This leads to essential nutrients such as iron and B12 not being absorbed, and if left untreated can lead to anaemia, cancer, infertility and osteoporosis.
Are there any effects from cutting gluten out of your diet? Although gluten doesn’t have any nutritional benefits, the wholegrain foods it’s found in are nutrient dense. If you don’t have an issue with digesting gluten then there’s no need to avoid it. Many gluten-free products are in fact higher in sugar and are very rarely fortified, so they are often lower in nutrients, not to mention their steeper price tag.
Is it possible to cut it out for a while and then include it again? If you have celiac disease then you must cut it out for good.
What foods should be avoided? Gluten is present in wheat, rye and barley. Oats are gluten-free, but can often contain traces due to cross-contamination during production. The obvious sources are bread, pasta and processed food, but there are many hidden sources such as soy sauce, stock cubes, salad dressings and even Chapstick.
A gluten-free diet may seem restrictive at first, but there are many naturally gluten-free grains around such as spelt and quinoa. It’s important to remember that all fruit, vegetables, pulses, plain meats, fish and seeds are all fine to eat. The best way to approach a gluten-free life is to focus on what you can eat, rather than what is off limits.
HOW TO GET TESTED
Think you might be intolerant to gluten? Find out for sure with a simple blood test (Dhs2,350) at the Dubai Herbal Treatment Centre. After a consultation with a nutrition expert to establish your eating habits, the staff will take a small sample of blood (pain-free, we promise), which comes back from a lab in ten days. A further consultation will be held to explain your results, on not just gluten intolerance, but other allergies. After that your nutritionist will help you to develop a new eating plan with the trigger foods eliminated so you can enjoy a healthier lifestyle with a body that is working in harmony.
Dubai Herbal Treatment Centre, Oud Metha, Dubai. Tel: (04) 3351200. dubaihtc.com
DON’T GO IT ALONE begonegluten.wordpress.com
Being diagnosed as celiac can be a scary process as you navigate a new diet and say farewell to certain foods. Dubai based blogger, Tanya Swetta, puts a humorous twist on dealing with food intolerances and offers practical advice and tips to cope with celiac disease in the region.
GOODIES WITHOUT GLUTEN
If the thought of a gluten-free life without cookies and cakes sends you into a spin, worry no more. Sweet Connection is the first gluten-free kitchen in the UAE and produces cakes and cookies to satisfy the sweetest tooth. Not only that, your goodies can be tailored to the individual with other allergies such as dairy, eggs, sugar and nuts.
Mercato Mall, Beach Road, Dubai. sweetconnectiondubai.3dcartstores.com
This nifty website stocks all your grocery needs from pizza to seasoned breadcrumbs, and is the brainchild of Katinka Socat, a celiac disease sufferer who was unaware of her condition until she discovered that her back was broken as a result of loss of bone density. This discovery spurred her on to find an array of foods that put the pleasure back into eating and she set out to make it easier for other sufferers to have access to those foods too. Gluten Free Supermarket will deliver your order to your door anywhere in the UAE, saving you the hassle of trawling around store after store.
Don’t have time to grocery shop? Let Dinnertime ease the burden by delivering everything you need to whip up four nights worth of gluten-free dinners straight to your door complete with easy to follow recipes. Simply place your order for either two (Dhs400) or four people (Dhs520) and pay cash on delivery. Easy peasy.
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