At Silly Yak Foods our primary mission is the manufacture of food which is 100% wheat free and gluten free for people with coeliac disease. As discussed in other pages, we also give considerable attention to catering to people with fructose malabsorption allergies and to people who suffer from other common food allergies or intolerances.

There is, however, a growing body of evidence, both scientific and anecdotal, which suggests that a gluten free diet can be beneficial to people who suffer from a wide variety of medical conditions. The conditions for which the most evidence of the benefit of a gluten free diet exists include dermatitis herpetiformis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis, crohn’s disease, autism spectrum disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Dermatitis Herpeteformis

Dermatitis Herpetiformis is an acute and chronic, extremely itchy skin rash. Like coeliac disease, it is an autoimmune condition caused by an abnormal immune system reaction to gluten. Generally emerging in young adults, it is a lifelong condition, although in a small percentage of cases remission of the disease will occur
later in life.

There are a small number of drug therapies which are known to be successful in treating the condition, though not universally so. In addition, these therapies have been known to have significant side-effects in some individuals. As Dermatitis Herpetiformis is caused by gluten consumption, it can be controlled or eliminated by following a gluten free diet.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable Bowwl Syndrome (IBS) is a disorder of the large bowel. It is often (and quite frequently inaccurately) used as a catch-all diagnosis for individuals who suffer from a wide variety of gastrointestinal symptoms and who cannot be diagnosed with a specific complaint.

The main symptoms are pains or discomfort in the abdominal region associated with frequent and persistent diarrhoea or constipation.

Diagnosis of IBS is difficult and somewhat contentious as the cause of the condition is not known and there are no reliable or accurate tests or suites of tests which can be used for diagnosis.

In practice, diagnosis is usually a case of observing the broad symptoms described above and then eliminating conditions for which definitive tests are known (e.g. coeliac disease, ulcerative colitis, crohns disease, etc.).

People with IBS often find that they have a heightened sensitivity to certain foods, including wheat, rye and barley. For these people, observing a gluten free diet can provide significant lessening of their symptoms.

Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative Colitis is another autoimmune disease and is once again a disease of the large bowel. It is characterised by acute and chronic ulceration of the interior of the bowel wall, leading to inflammation, bleeding, secretion of pus and other mucus and frequent, loose, bowel movements. Unlike Crohn’s Disease, the effects of ulcerative colitis are limited to lining of the large bowel and the anus.

Ulcerative colitis commonly develops in the late teens to early twenties and is a lifelong condition. It is typically managed using a variety of drugs, including steroids and sulfazine anti-inflammatories to control the inflammation and ulceration of the bowel. Many of these drugs come with side-effects of varying intensity.

In extreme cases, where the condition is life-threatening or where the side-effects of ongoing use of drug therapy to manage the condition are deemed to be too hazardous, the patient may undergo an operation to remove the large bowel. While permanent, this is a drastic solution with profound effects on ongoing quality of life.

As a result, surgery is generally seen as a last resort. While there is no scientific consensus on the management of ulcerative colitis through diet, considerable anecdotal evidence exists to suggest that eliminating a variety of foods which irritate the large bowel, such as wheat, rye, coffee, alcohol and a number of others can reduce the effects of the disease.

Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s Disease is superficially similar to ulcerative colitis, with the main symptom being inflammation and bleeding, often of the bowel.

The primary observable difference from a lay perspective is that the inflammation associated with crohn’s disease occurs in all layers of the lining of the affected organ and that it can occur anywhere within the digestive tract – a person suffering from crohn’s disease may experience inflammation and ulceration anywhere from the lips to the anus.

Treatments are similar to those used for ulcerative colitis, although surgery is rarely a permanent solution, with the disease often developing in formerly healthy areas of the digestive tract once a damaged section has been surgically removed.

As with ulcerative colitis, while there is no scientific consensus on the management of the condition through diet, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that eliminating a variety of foods which irritate the large bowel, such as wheat, rye, coffee, alcohol and a number of others can reduce the effects of the disease.

Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism Spectrum Disorders are characterised in their sufferers by broad issues with social interaction and also with communication.

Sufferers also tend to have narrowly restricted interests and are prone to highly repetitive behaviours. The disorders take three main forms, being fullblown autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and the confusingly named PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified).

The conditions are far too complex and varied to describe in detail here. Once again, however, there is ample anecdotal evidence available which suggests that these conditions can be managed and/or treated through the maintenance of a strict gluten-free diet.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is another in the loose family of developmental disorders whose prevalence in modern society is increasing rapidly.

While scientific opinion is notoriously divided on the prevalence, diagnosis, treatment and even existence of ADHD, it seems safe to assume that the condition exists, even though there is much debate in the medical community over diagnosis and treatment.

While it is a complex and controversial condition and there is little or no consensus with respect to diagnosis and treatment, some studies have suggested that a diet which eliminates food additives, refined sugars, gluten and dairy may have a positive effect upon ADHD sufferers.

Disclaimer: Note that all of the information above is of an extremely general nature and is simply intended to discuss other reasons why specific individuals might choose to follow a gluten free diet.

For detailed information on any of these conditions, please consult the relevant support groups and associations and seek qualified medical advice.