Thanks to modern diets, many of us have developed coeliac disease, which is an allergic reaction to a protein called gluten. This reaction occurs in the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of nutrients. It can have many symptoms including diarrhoea and fatigue and, most significantly, weight loss. The only way to combat is to follow a gluten free diet which eliminates all food sources of gluten. Paradoxically, the same diet can be used for weight loss. Gluten is found naturally in many grains. These include barley, rye and triticale. But the most important source of gluten is wheat, and that makes it very difficult to eliminate from our diets. A gluten free diet must avoid any wheat products. Apart from the fact that nearly all breads, pastries and other baked goods are based on wheat, gluten is a valuable thickening agent and is used both in the home and by food producers to add texture and body to other products. It’s what gives bread its elastic texture; it’s the thickening agent in most sauces and it’s what gives beer its body. So it’s essential to avoid all these products, even in small quantities, to follow a gluten free diet. The most difficult part of the gluten free diet is knowing what foods contain gluten. There are only two ways to do this. The first is to do a lot of reading so that you understand the role of gluten in modern food processing and can make a reasonable guess about whether a food contains gluten. The other is to find a gluten free diet from a reputable publisher and follow it religiously. This is the way that will suit most people, but it’s still important to understand which foods contain gluten and why. Obviously it’s easy to identify wheat and barley in many products, but you must learn to think about processed foods and what gives them their texture. What makes packet soups thick? Gluten. What is the filler in processed luncheon meats? Gluten. Even toothpaste and lipsticks may contain gluten to improve their texture.Getting rid of gluten When you see how pervasive the use of gluten is, you’ll probably opt to find a good gluten free diet plan and stick to it, rather than having to check all the ingredients on everything you put into your mouth to see whether it contains wheat products or refined gluten in some form or under some obscure name. This may involve quite a radical rethinking of the way you eat, but once you discover the large range of gluten free foods, the diet is not particularly unpleasant or restrictive. On the contrary, you may discover many interesting foods that you weren’t aware of before. But what’s important is to use a gluten free diet from a reputable source. The gluten free diet is not intended as a weight loss diet. But it may be an option for people wanting to lose weight by imposing a useful process of education and discipline about food. Think about it!