While some people choose to embrace the gluten-free diet, others are not so lucky, writes Felicity Glover
There’s a lot to be said about fad diets. Some work, many don’t. But what we do know for sure is that there’s a diet bandwagon that millions of people jump on every year, many believing that they’ve found the Holy Grail to losing weight or living longer.
I remember quite a few of them: the Grapefruit Diet, Atkins Diet, South Beach Diet, Paleo Diet … the list is endless, but none possibly more uninspiring than the raw food diet.
One of the biggest trends of late has been the gluten-free diet. Like its organic counterpart, going gluten-free has morphed into a global phenomenon that has seen food conglomerates cash in on a multibillion-dollar industry that is forecast to double to US$16 billion by 2016.
But according to a recent study, the millions of people who have embraced the gluten-free way of life are doing it for all the wrong reasons. In fact, researchers have found that there are no significant health benefits to going gluten-free – unless, of course, you have been diagnosed as gluten intolerant.
Also known as coeliac disease, it is estimated that about one per cent of the world’s population has been diagnosed as gluten-intolerant.
For many sufferers, it is a painful condition that can take a frustratingly long time to diagnose. Symptoms range from mild to severe and can include the likes of stomach cramps, diarrhoea, weight loss, vomiting in children, loss of appetite and bloating.
While many sufferers of coeliac disease in the West have a range of support groups, nutritionists and medical care to help them manage their day-to-day lives, it is more difficult in the Middle East, says one Muscat-based mother of three.
Gabriela Delassandro, an Australian expat who moved to Muscat with her family six months ago, says Oman is proving to be the most difficult country to source gluten-free foods for her five-year-old daughter, Lucia.
“My daughter has coeliac, is dairy intolerant and allergic to many preservatives they use in the food, especially in the preservative-packed gluten-free stuff available here,” she says.
“We have lived in the Middle East for 10 years and have found Oman the most difficult to find things for her. Luckily, I’m a chef and I make everything for her from scratch.
“But I have to import flours and bring most of the cheeses from Australia or the UK.”
Lucia’s condition is so severe that she can’t use Play-Doh, while even a small breadcrumb could make her sick, Gabriela says.
“She triples up in pain, has a sore stomach, sometimes a headache and is very tired.”
From having four fridges and freezers to using two toasters and separate baking goods for Lucia, as well as making two different family meals every night, the Delassandro family has found a way to cope. But others are not so lucky.
“I feel sorry for people who have gluten intolerance here,” says Gabriela.