Going Gluten Free

Going Gluten Free

Starting out on a gluten free diet? You may have been diagnosed with coeliac disease or have non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, which are the two associated conditions where a gluten free diet maybe prescribed. A gluten free diet can be challenging if you are embarking on it for the first time. Gluten is in many food products which we eat day to day, from tomato ketchup to sausages, but especially in grains and processed foods. Knowing what gluten is and have some simple rules for building a meal can be a big help to get you started.

What is gluten?

Gluten is the name given to a family of proteins found in grains. It is the sticky glue-like material that occurs when you mix flour and water that provides that chewy delicious texture in bread. The two main proteins in wheat, which are associated with adverse health effects are glutenin and gliadin found in wheat (1). In Barley this is named Hordein, in Rye it is named Secalin, and Avenin in Oats. Therefore, oats can never officially be labelled ‘gluten free’ as they contain Avenin which is a gluten protein, they can however be ‘gliadin free’ (wheat free) if they have not been contaminated with wheat during processing.

What is a grain?

Grains, commonly referred to as ‘cereals’ or ‘cereal grains’, are the edible seeds of specific grasses belonging to the Poaceae family. Wheat, oats, and rice are the grains most eaten in Australia, with others such as rye, barley, corn, triticale, millet, and sorghum making a smaller contribution. Some types of wheat such as spelt, freekeh, farro, kamut and einkorn are also becoming more popular.

Why avoid it?

The most common reason to avoid gluten is if you have been diagnosed with coeliac disease or non-coeliac gluten sensitivity. Coeliac is an auto-immune condition, where the immune system identifies gluten as a threat or ‘invader’ and starts to attack it. Eating gluten can cause an immune response leading to increased inflammation in the gut (2). Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity is a condition where eating gluten causes IBS like symptoms such as bloating, constipation or diarrhoea. If you do not have either of these but notice gluten affects you, it maybe your microbiome at work as gluten also affects our gut bacteria. The bacteria living in our colon also digest gluten and are actively involved in breaking it down, so that we can digest it properly. However, research shows that gluten changes the activity of bacterial biochemical pathways and could increase the number of inflammatory peptides they make (3,4), increasing inflammation in the gut.

Tips for starting out

1. Avoid eating only gluten free replacements.

A general rule when moving towards a gluten free diet is to try and avoid gluten-free replacements. These foods are often made with white, processed grains that can spike your blood sugars and fillers, which create a nice texture, but often cause digestive upset. Breads in particularly. The good news is that not all grains contain gluten! Some gluten free grains include:

  • Amaranth
  • Arrowroot
  • Buckwheat
  • Corn
  • Quinoa
  • Millet
  • Rice – brown, wild
  • Sorghum
  • Tapioca
  • Teff

2. Use nuts and seeds.

Nuts and seeds are an excellent replacement to grains. Nuts and seeds are nutrient dense, meaning they contain many vitamins, minerals, and good fats to keep you full for longer. They can also be ground down to make gluten-free flour replacements for baking such as flaxseed, pumpkin seed, and almonds.

3. Building a meal

When putting together a plate of food, keep it simple and use a blend of starchy and non-starchy vegetables to keep you full, rather than gluten containing grains.

  • Protein: fish, chicken, beef, pork, eggs, tofu, beans, and legumes
  • Gluten free fibre or grain: sweet potato, pumpkin, squash, carrot, brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, corn polenta and cauliflower rice
  • Non-Starchy Vegetable: salad leaves, broccoli, green beans, spinach, kale, cauliflower, capsicum, mushrooms.

Starting any new eating regime can be overwhelming at first. It is best to focus on what you can eat rather than what you cannot eat including vegetables, fruits, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, legumes, gluten free grains. Come in store and have a chat to one of our Naturopaths or Nutritionists for some recipe ideas!

Written by: Mandy Astrop, Naturopath


  1. Balakireva, A. V., & Zamyatnin, A. A. (2016). Properties of Gluten Intolerance: Gluten Structure, Evolution, Pathogenicity and Detoxification Capabilities. Nutrients, 8(10), 644.
  2. Wierdsma, N. J., van Bokhorst-de van der Schueren, M. A., Berkenpas, M., Mulder, C. J., & van Bodegraven, A. A. (2013). Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are highly prevalent in newly diagnosed celiac disease patients. Nutrients5(10), 3975–3992.
  3. Karakula-Juchnowicz, H., Rog, J., Juchnowicz, D., Łoniewski, I., Skonieczna-Żydecka, K., Krukow, P., Futyma-Jedrzejewska, M., & Kaczmarczyk, M. (2019). The study evaluating the effect of probiotic supplementation on the mental status, inflammation, and intestinal barrier in major depressive disorder patients using gluten-free or gluten-containing diet (SANGUT study): a 12-week, randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled clinical study protocol. Nutrition journal, 18(1), 50.
  4. Obrenovich M. (2018). Leaky Gut, Leaky Brain? Microorganisms6(4), 107.

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