What is gluten? What is lactose?

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Some people are also sensitive to oats.

On a gluten-free diet you can eat any naturally gluten-free foods, such as meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, rice, potatoes and lentils.

There are also some processed foods which don’t contain gluten, but check the ingredients lists thoroughly. There are also an increasing amount of gluten-free substitute foods available, such as specially made gluten-free bread, flour, pasta, crackers and biscuits.

There are plenty of both alcoholic and soft drinks which don’t contain gluten. Fruit juice, flavoured water, cordials, fizzy drinks, cider, wine, sherry, spirits, port, liqueurs are all naturally gluten free.

Drinks that aren’t gluten free and therefore not suitable for people with coeliac disease are barley squashes, beer, lager, stout and ales. However, there are some specially made gluten-free beers and lagers available.


What is Coeliac Disease?

Coeliac disease is a lifelong autoimmune disease caused by a reaction to gluten. When someone with coeliac disease eats gluten, their immune system reacts by damaging the lining of the small intestine. Coeliac disease affects 1 in 100 people. However, only 24% have been diagnosed! According to Coeliac UK, “there are currently nearly half a million people who have coeliac disease but don’t yet know”!

Symptoms include bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, wind, constipation, tiredness, sudden or unexpected weight loss (but not in all cases), hair loss and anaemia.

Once diagnosed, it is treated by following a gluten-free diet for life.

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What is a lactose free diet?

A lactose free diet means eating foods that have no lactose. Lactose is a sugar that is a normal part of milk products. Some people do not break down lactose well. They may not have enough lactase, the enzyme that breaks lactose down in the body.

Some of the main sources of lactose you may need to cut down on or avoid if you’re lactose intolerant are milk (including cow’s milk, goat’s milk and sheep’s milk), and, dairy products made from milk, such as butter, ice cream and cheese. Sometimes other food and drink can sometimes contain lactose, so check the ingredients lists.

These include:

  • salad cream, salad dressing and mayonnaise
  • biscuits
  • chocolate
  • boiled sweets
  • cakes
  • some types of bread and other baked goods
  • some breakfast cereals
  • packets of mixes to make pancakes and biscuits
  • packets of instant potatoes and instant soup
  • some processed meats, such as sliced ham

It’s important to check the ingredients of all food and drink products carefully, as milk or lactose are often hidden ingredients. Lactose isn’t always listed separately, so look out for milk, whey, curds and milk products, such as cheese, butter and cream.

Some ingredients may sound like they contain lactose when they don’t, such as lactic acid, sodium lactate and cocoa butter. These ingredients don’t need to be avoided if you’re lactose intolerant.



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