Gluten intolerance doesn’t have to be a hassle

In Europe alone, more than 7 million people suffer from coeliac disease, which means they cannot just eat all kinds of bread or cereal.

The big culprit is gluten, which, although completely harmless to the majority of the population, can be very dangerous to those who suffer from coeliac disease or gluten intolerance.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a group of specific proteins present in many cereals – mainly wheat but also rye, barley, malt – and cereal products. Wheat subspecies and hybrids, such as spelt, kamut, farro and triticale also contain gluten. Gluten is also responsible for the elasticity of the dough and for the spongey and soft feel of bread and cakes.

Gluten is totally harmless to the majority of the population, because it is not even absorbed, and rather gets eliminated by our digestive systems. However, for a person suffering from coeliac disease, this protein will cause a series of health problems, ranging from stomach and digestive issues, to anemia or skin problems, among others.

Gluten allergy vs. gluten intolerance

Although the term “gluten intolerance” is much more widely used to refer to someone that can’t ingest gluten, there is a more serious condition that is gluten allergy – or coeliac disease. There are important differences between the two.

  • Coeliac disease

    Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease of the small intestine that can have serious gastrointestinal manifestations, as well as other reactions like skin rashes. Those who suffer from coeliac disease have adverse reactions to gluten, and their bodies treat this protein as an allergen, triggering inflammatory responses in the intestine. On the most serious cases, gluten even cause respiratory complications or even brain damage to coeliac people.

  • Gluten intolerance

    Gluten intolerance, in its turn, is also called Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) and is characterised by a difficulty in digestion of gluten which causes gastrointestinal symptoms similar to the ones of coeliac disease. Such symptoms can, with time, permanently damage the walls of the small intestine.

Gluten intolerance: what to eat?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for gluten intolerance or for coeliac disease. The only way to manage these conditions is to maintain a life-long gluten-free diet. But which foods are gluten-free?

Wheat-based pasta contains gluten.

Non gluten-free foods

The cereal that contains more gluten is wheat – however, rye, barley and malt also contain large amounts of gluten. As such, bread, cake, biscuits, pasta, pizza and other gluten-flour-based foods will, naturally, contain gluten. The same goes for the vast majority of breakfast cereals and cereal bars, wheat semolina or wheat germ, and some seeds.

Many processed foods do contain gluten – even if it doesn’t look like it – like instant soup, spice mixes and seasonings, some sauces (like soy sauce), and others. Besides, drinks like beer are not gluten-free – since beer is made from barley or some other cereal. Additionally, some plant-based proteins may be made from gluten-rich cereals, so it is particularly important to check the labels and allergens if shopping for someone who suffers from coeliac disease or gluten intolerance.

Fruta e vegetais não contém glúten.

Gluten-free foods

No vegetable or fruit contains gluten, as well as dairy, meat, fish or eggs. Legumes and nuts are also completely safe for gluten intolerant people, as well as vegetable oils.

Oats are, a priori, a naturally gluten-free cereal. However, because its cultivation and processing are frequently linked to wheat and other cereals, there is quite often cross-contamination. Nevertheless, when processed properly, this is a great substitution cereal for a coeliac diet. Buckwheat, although it has wheat in its name, is equally gluten-free and, as such, suitable for both people with coeliac disease and gluten intolerants.

Flours and derivatives made from carob, amaranth, rice, potato and potato starch, sweet potato, maize, tapioca, chestnuts and buckwheat are safe and gluten-free – as long as they are not processed along wheat and other gluten-rich cereals.

Nowadays it is quite easy to find gluten-free alternatives like breads, pizzas, pastas, biscuits, and cakes. Always look for the “gluten-free” indication on food labels, and keep in mind that all the foods suitable for someone with coeliac disease are suitable for gluten intolerants, but the contrary is not true.

What is Jerónimo Martins Group doing to help?

Not taking action was simply out of the question for the Jerónimo Martins Group, who has created its own exclusive range of gluten-free products. And, of course, pizza is very much included.

Following its mission of promoting good health and well-being through food and to help all of those who suffer from this sometimes bitter problem, the Jerónimo Martins Group has partnered with local Portuguese and Polish coeliac disease sufferers associations to launch special gluten-free products that are really rich in flavour, without any of the risky proteins.

The gluten-free range kept growing over the years and today, literally hundreds of different items are available at the Pingo Doce and Biedronka stores. From the most delicious and world-famous gluten-free Portuguese custard tarts, to the wonders of an authentic Italian pizza, this exclusive gluten-free range of products is here to stay.