Going gluten free? It could do more harm than good
FOR every one Australian who is forced to avoid gluten, more than five others are going gluten free with the hope of being healthier.
That's according to new figures from health retailer Amcal, which has found almost one in 10 Aussies have adopted a "gluten-free lifestyle".
It also found that of those Queenslanders who have diagnosed themselves as being gluten-intolerant without medical advice, almost a quarter of those said they did not know what coeliac disease was.
Dr Cindy Pan said while it was possible to have a healthy and gluten-free diet, it required help from a GP to ensure you aren't doing damage to your overall health.
"Many people perceive gluten-free diets to be a healthier option however, for those who don't have coeliac disease, this is simply not the case," she said.
"Some gluten-free foods are higher in sugar and fats, lower in fibre and may lack the fortification of extra vitamins and minerals that a regular, gluten-containing diet may contain.
"This could result in an increased risk of vitamin deficiencies for those who strictly self-impose a gluten-free regimen without understanding how to ensure the nutrients they might be missing out on can be replaced or supplemented."
Almost a quarter (24%) of Aussies said they regularly used "Dr Google" to self-diagnose,
Amcal Senior Pharmacist James Neville said it was important to consult a health professional before jumping to the wrong conclusion about conditions such as Coeliac disease.
"If you are experiencing sensitivity to gluten and consistently suffer symptoms such as digestive issues, lethargy, irritability or headaches, a definitive diagnosis to rule out coeliac disease is recommended," he said.
"As a first step, you may wish to do a blood test to screen for any obvious indicators that you might be at risk. This can be done by your GP or at an Amcal pharmacy, and you may be referred to a specialist for further assessment.
"Eliminating gluten from your diet is not a trivial undertaking and should only be overseen by a medical professional such as a GP or pharmacist to ensure the most accurate results."
KEY FINDINGS FROM AMCAL'S RESEARCH
• Close to a quarter (22%) admitted they had no idea what coeliac disease was
• When questioned about the reasons behind voluntarily following a gluten-free lifestyle, close to a half (44%) claimed they were doing so to improve their overall health while more than one in ten (11%) said it was to lose weight
• One in five (20%) who claimed to be coeliac or gluten sensitive had not been officially diagnosed by a health professional
• Almost two thirds (62%) were unaware that a gluten-free diet may lack essential nutrients