The whole gluten free thing can seem like a bit of a trend and lots of people are suspicious as to why something we have eaten all our lives has suddenly become such a problem. The issue is the amount we now eat has risen and gluten has found its way into just about every meal in some form or another. Gluten is an inflammatory which is not a good thing and it is a huge cause of the ailments which bother so many of us in the modern age – lethargy, bloating, headaches, anxiety and so on. However, everyone has a digestive system unique to themselves and how you deal with gluten will vary to the person next to you. Some people are only affected very mildly by gluten, so mildly that they may not notice it. others are affected by light stomach pains, bloating and lethargy which they do not necessary associate with gluten and then others are affected very quickly as soon as they eat it by extreme stomach pains and stomach swelling. I was in the first bracket to start with and never thought I had a problem with gluten until I read Grain Brain and learnt that the inflammatory characteristics of gluten affect the brain and links has been found between lots of brain disorders and gluten. So I cut it out and then a few weeks later I started eating it one day and the effect was astonishing. My body had learnt to live without in and as soon as I finished eating it I got serious cramps and felt sick. Now I can barely touch the stuff although sometimes at restaurants I find it hard not to hit the bread basket!

So you may not actually be allergic to gluten but you may well be intolerant to it and here are the signs to look out for:

1. Gastrointestinal effects – cramps, bloating, general discomfort.

2. Malabsorption of vitamins

3. Skin problems – persistent skin issues are a sign of inflammation which can be caused by gluten

4. Migraines – caused by gluten causes inflammation of nerve endings

5. Joint pain – dull aches in joints

6. Chronic fatigue – you wake up feeling sluggish, you’re fatigued all day, and never feel rested even when you are getting early nights etc

7. Neurological symptoms such as dizziness or feeling of being off balance

8. Hormone Imbalances such as PMS, PCOS or unexplained infertility

I would suggest that everyone cuts down on their gluten intake which will then also lead to weight-loss as it will mean avoiding cakes, biscuits and bread items. There are lots of options now for gluten free and it leads to that conscious thoughtful eating again which is vital to well-being and getting in shape. As I say many times, it is all about moderation. If you eat some gluten fine but just try not to eat so much and to recognise when you are eating it.

By the way, the gluten free pasta and chocolate brownies which can be found in Waitrose and Sainsburys are even more delicious than mainstream versions – the pasta without gluten is so soft and it melts in the mouth. Here is a gluten free cake that I made using almond milk and wheat free flour.