Intolerance Lab

Visit our page for more information on Easy Affordable at Home Intolerance Testing

Gluten intolerance FAQ

Gluten intolerance FAQ

This article includes everything you need to know about Gluten intolerance. You’ll find information here on what gluten intolerance is, what celiac disease is, how they differ, gluten intolerance symptoms, what foods you can eat if your gluten intolerant and what you should avoid and more.

It will be updated regularly with new information and to answer any further questions that come through. If you have a question that isn’t answered here, please send it into us so we can add it to this FAQ.

GLUTEN 101

You are probably wondering what gluten actually, is and why it causes such a problem for so many people.

It is a sticky protein that is found in certain grains, and it gives elasticity to dough and pastry. It is quite hard to digest, even for people who are not intolerant to it. This means that it needs a really well-functioning gut with strong stomach acid to digest, and this is hard to find. Most people have an under-functioning digestive system, which does have a part to play in the rise of food intolerances.

Focusing on improving digestive function and removing any food intolerances, in this case foods that contain gluten, goes a long way to improving gut health and overall wellness.

Gluten Intolerance, what, why and how?

Gluten intolerance is the same as gluten sensitivity, and it happens when the body reacts to the protein portion of gluten-containing grains. The intolerance occurs even when small amounts of the food are eaten, amounts that wouldn’t usually cause a problem for most individuals. Large amounts of any food can cause issues, so the dosage is important and does vary from person to person.

Food intolerances can be quite challenging to pinpoint because symptoms don’t always occur straight away. In fact, they can occur up to 3 days after the food is eaten. Keeping a food and symptom diary helps in pinpointing what might be the problem foods. We recommend our hair intolerance test as a wonderful option as well. It is non-invasive and will help you identify if gluten is an issue, and also what other foods may be causing you problems too. 

The most common gluten intolerance symptoms are gut-related, including diarrhoea or constipation, gas, stomach pains, tiredness and headaches or migraines.

What is the difference between gluten allergy and gluten intolerance?

The difference lies both in the severity of the reaction, and the way the body reacts. Where an allergy is concerned, the reactions are severe and life-threatening, culminating in anaphylactic reactions. They are IgE mediated, which causes the immune system to react and release inflammatory components that cause swelling, itchiness, vomiting, asthma and breathing difficulties etc.

As described above, a food intolerance reaction is slower, and the symptoms are much less severe and not life-threatening.

How does Celiac disease differ from gluten intolerance?

Gluten intolerance and Celiac disease are very different. They are both reactions to gluten, the protein portion of certain grains, and that is where the similarities stop.

When someone is genuinely Celiac, they have an auto-immune condition. Upon consumption of gluten, the immune system is triggered, and the intestinal lining is damaged. We have little finger-like projections in the intestinal wall, called villi, and in celiac disease these are decimated. These villi are what absorb nutrients, and so it is very, very common for people living with Celiac disease to have severe nutrient deficiencies such as anaemia (iron deficiency).

In gluten intolerance, the intestinal villi are not damaged. Instead, there is inflammation in the gut, which causes uncomfortable symptoms.

What are the symptoms of Gluten Intolerance?

The most common symptoms that someone with gluten intolerance will experience are:

  • Gas, including belching and flatulence
  • Bloating and stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Bowel issues, including constipation or diarrhoea, sometimes both

Other non-digestive symptoms include:

  • Generalised fatigue and lethargy
  • Weight loss, especially so in children, and an inability to gain weight in adults
  • Iron & vitamin D deficiencies
  • Recurrent mouth ulcers

How can you get a diagnosis of Gluten intolerance?

There are several testing options available that can help you discover if you do in fact have a gluten intolerance. Having a celiac biopsy is not one of them, as usually it will show up negative for someone suffering gluten sensitivity.

The first option you can try is to take gluten out of your diet for at least two weeks. This will give you a good gauge as to whether it is affecting you or not. If your symptoms disappear, and then reappear again when you reintroduce gluten back into your diet, you have a pretty solid answer. However, this doesn’t always work, and you may have other food intolerances alongside gluten as well.

In this case, you can do an IgG blood test or a non.invasive hair sample test. The IgG blood test picks up antibodies in your blood, which react to food protein samples that it is tested against. In clinical experiences, this type of testing works well but obviously does involve a blood draw.

Our hair sample test is our recommended option because it is so non-invasive and expansive in what it tests for. It involves taking a few strands of hair, which is then tested in a lab against hundreds of different foods and non-food products to see which ones your body is reacting to. Through doing this test, you can find out if gluten is a problem for you, and what other foods your body may be intolerant to as well.

Interesting question about gluten:

Is gluten intolerance a real thing?

100% yes. There are many studies and anecdotal case notes that recognise gluten intolerance and other food intolerances as well.

There are testing options for gluten intolerance, as mentioned above, and many case notes and studies that show drastic improvements in people with removal of gluten from their diets.

Why is there such a rise in gluten intolerance and celiac disease?

Several known factors have contributed to the drastic rise in food intolerances in our modern world, including wheat and gluten.

The number 1 factor where wheat is concerned is believed to be due to genetic modification of the wheat grain and its hybridisation. It was modified roughly 50 years ago to ensure it made better bread and also gave better cropping yields. This modification drastically increased the amount of gluten in the grain, and also increased the number of chromosomes. Basically, what this did was create a food that the human body hadn’t seen before, and still to this day does not know how to process correctly. If you’d like to read in-depth about this, there is a book by Dr.William Davis called Wheat Belly that goes deep into the problems with modern wheat and its effects on the human body today. 

Other factors are believed to be the amount of glyphosate, pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals used in modern wheat farming. We don’t know the full extent of what these chemicals do to the human body, but we have seen a pretty significant decline in health since their introduction over the last 50 plus years.

Along the same vein, processed and pre-packaged foods are playing a role in the rise of food intolerances and poor health. They are filled with all manner of chemicals and additives whose effects on human health are also not fully known.

There is not a clear cut answer, but the factors mentioned above undoubtedly have a significant role in poor immune health and the rise in gluten intolerances.

Can gluten intolerance be cured?

No, there isn’t a ‘cure’ for gluten intolerance. No medication or procedure will rid you of the inability to process gluten. However, you can do a lot to improve your health and rid your body of the symptoms of gluten intolerance by simply removing all traces of gluten from your diet. Read on to find out more about gluten-free food and how to make it simple.

Gluten-free eating made easy:

It can feel overwhelming when you need to remove certain foods from your diet, especially if you’ve been eating a lot of them. Luckily these days, there are plenty of alternatives to gluten, and you can still have a delicious and nourishing diet without gluten-containing grains.

Grains that contain gluten:

  • Rye
  • Wheat
  • Kamut
  • Spelt
  • Barley
  • Oats (they don’t contain gluten, but do have a similar protein. If you are Celiac or severely intolerant then avoid oats, even certified gluten-free ones)
  • Triticale

Gluten-Free Grains:

  • Rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Corn
  • Millet
  • Amaranth
  • Quinoa
  • Sorghum
  • Certified gluten-free oats

The two best alternatives are quinoa and buckwheat. They are both seeds, not grains, but they are cooked and used in the same way as grains. They are very high in B vitamins and protein, which is why we recommend them.

Other food ingredients contain gluten as well, including things like natural flavourings, maltodextrin, brewers yeast, food starches, malt extracts and more. We will cover this in more depth in a future post.

Can gluten-free eating really be easy?

Yes absolutely, and we are about to show you how. The way forward into simple, delicious and nourishing eating is through adopting a wholefoods approach to your food. Not only will you be removing gluten, but you will be adding in a load of nutrients and therefore experiencing more energy, mental clarity, overall wellness and loads more.

When we speak about whole foods, we are referring to foods in their whole natural state. Foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, lentils & legumes, gluten-free grains, meats and eggs. These foods are naturally gluten-free, not processed, full of nutrients, vitamins and minerals, and provide your precious body with everything it needs to truly thrive.  These foods also keep you feeling full and satisfied and give you many benefits that you may not expect from a simple change in the way you are eating.

What should I eat on a gluten-free diet?

As we mentioned above, the best thing that you can do when faced with changing to a gluten-free diet is to move towards whole foods. When you remove processed and packaged foods such as bread, crackers, biscuits, muesli bars, jar sauces etc. and replace them with fresh foods that are naturally gluten-free and full of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients you will naturally see a considerable benefit and change in your overall health and wellbeing.

Some simple things that you can do to ensure you get a good start are:

  • Shop the supermarket perimeters. When you avoid going into the aisles as much as possible, you are left with the fresh fruit, veggies, meats, eggs and dairy.
  • Do not move onto gluten-free boxed foods. They may not contain gluten, but they do contain a lot of chemicals and preservatives, and will not add to your health.
  • Avoid sugary drinks like cordials and soft drinks. Instead go for water with added citrus fruits, berries and herbs.
  • If you consume dairy, avoid the low-fat versions and also highly processed yoghurts and custards etc. They have added sugars and thickeners, which often means added gluten too.
  • Introduce a fresh fruit and vegetable smoothie into your day. Make sure you add some green veggies in, such as baby spinach. This is such a great way to get an extra 3 or 4 servings of fruit and vegetables in.
  • Remember nuts and seeds when you are snacking. They are nutrient-dense and gluten-free.
  • Prepare your meals and snacks at home as much as possible. Keep things simple, dress with olive oil, sea salt and herbs and spices. Fresh homemade foods are nutrient-dense, gluten-free and satisfying.

I'd like to have gluten-free grain products sometimes, how do I choose them well?

This is a great question, and it is entirely possible to get gluten-free options that are also still good for you.

  • When you are on the hunt for gluten-free bread, crackers, biscuits and pasta go to your local wholefoods or health foods store. Supermarket options are not usually good for you, and supermarkets don’t come with staff who can share with you the benefits of each option and which ones taste good or not.
  • Look for whole food ingredients in the products you are choosing. For example, look for crackers made with things like linseeds, sesame seeds, olive oil and sea salt.
  • On the nutrition panel, buy products that have less than 5gm sugar per 100gm.
  • On the ingredients list look for olive oil or butter. IF you see sunflower, canola or vegetable oils steer clear. These are very bad for you.
  • When you are reading the ingredients, make sure you know what they all are. IF they are weird, hard to pronounce or contain numbers, then don’t buy the product. They were probably made in a lab.
  • Remember, less is always best when it comes to the ingredients list.

Why do some people choose a gluten-free diet, even though they aren't allergic to gluten?

There are a couple of good reasons why this may be the case.

Firstly, it may be personal preference. Sometimes people feel a lot better without wheat and other grains in their diet, so they stick with it.

Secondly, it is most likely due to gluten intolerance. While not an allergy, it still causes much discomfort as we have described above.

Are gluten intolerance and lactose intolerance linked?

No, not usually. A person can have both, but it isn’t a typical presentation.

Is ice cream gluten-free?

Unfortunately no. Ice creams these days are not just made from cream and sugar. They also have a lot of additives, many of which can contain gluten.

If you have a gluten intolerance, then please make sure you look for an ice cream that is labelled Gluten Free.

As an alternative to this, you can make your own at home. Frozen fruit with some coconut cream makes a delicious homemade ice cream.

If I stop eating gluten, will this cause me to develop gluten intolerance?

No, definitely not. However, if you had undiagnosed gluten intolerance that you weren’t aware of, your symptoms could flare up again upon reintroducing gluten. It is highly inflammatory, even in people who don’t have a gluten intolerance, so this is a possibility.

GLUTENS EFFECTS ON YOUR BODY

Is Gluten intolerance linked to Graves Disease?

Absolutely! So much so that doctors recommend celiac biopsies for patients newly diagnosed with Graves disease.

The thyroid does not like gluten in general, and any sort of thyroid disorder does not mix with gluten exposure.

Is Gluten Intolerance fatal?

No, it isn’t. Any food intolerance is not life-threatening, unlike allergy responses which can be fatal.

However, you will still cause damage to your body if you consume gluten with a known intolerance to it. It may not threaten your life, but it will damage the quality of it.

What are some other symptoms of gluten intolerance?

Having gluten intolerance doesn’t mean you will have digestive symptoms. It can manifest in many different ways, including the following:

  • Re.current mouth ulcers. Having gluten intolerance lowers your immune system, and mouth ulcers occur as a result of this.
  • Skin issues, such as acne. Wheat raises insulin levels drastically, which triggers the hormones that cause acne.
  • Sore back, aching hips, unexplained body aches and pains. These can all be caused by the inflammation from gluten intolerance.
  • Rough bumps like chicken skin on the backs of arms.
  • Brain fog and the inability to think clearly
  • Weight gain that can’t be explained any other way.
  • Anaemia or Iron deficiency. People with this should always consider that gluten intolerance may be the cause, especially if they continually have low iron and haven’t figured out why yet.

Is gluten intolerance linked to mood issues such as depression and anxiety?

Yes, definitely. Out gut and nervous systems are very strongly linked, and any inflammation in the digestive tract will adversely impact the nervous system in some way. Anxiety and depression are symptoms of an impacted nervous system.

Modern science also shows us strong correlations between gluten sensitivity and depression/anxiety. Several recent studies are showing strong links between the two. If you do suffer from anxiety or depression, it may be worth having a test for food intolerances to see if they are playing a part.