Welcome to our gluten intolerance FAQ. Here we aim to cover everything you need to know about gluten intolerance. This will include; what gluten is, how it differs from gluten allergy and celiac disease, the common symptoms of gluten intolerance, testing options for gluten intolerance, which grains contain gluten, which ones are safe for you to eat, how you can make gluten-free eating manageable and a whole lot more. We will be regularly updating this post as new questions and new information comes to light.
We hope this is informative and helpful on your intolerance journey. Let’s get started with a peek into the nature of gluten.
Gluten is simply a protein found in particular grains. It is quite sticky and gives an elastic texture to bread doughs.
Even if you are not gluten intolerant, gluten is still really hard for the stomach to digest due to its sticky quality and the length of the proteins. It requires strong stomach acid and excellent digestion, which is not that common in our modern-day world.
Most of us have digestive systems that are working under-pa, due to things like medications, stress, drinking tap water and eating pre-prepared convenience foods and conventionally grown produce that are both laden with chemicals. Removing problem foods such as gluten from our diets reduces the inflammation in our digestive system, allowing it to rest, repair and learn to work efficiently again.
As opposed to food intolerance as described above, food allergy reactions are much more severe than intolerances. They are IgE mediated reactions, with protein components of particular foods causing releases of histamine and other inflammation-causing substances in the body. In this case, the protein causing the issue is gluten. Consequently, the body has quick inflammatory reactions, including things like severe itchy eczema, severe gastrointestinal symptoms, vomiting and diarrhoea, asthma, allergy symptoms and sometimes life-threatening anaphylaxis.
Gluten intolerance or sensitivity has also been referred to as Celiac Disease. However, they are two different responses to the proteins found in gluten-containing grains. A true celiac has an auto-immune reaction to gluten, causing damage to the villi in our intestinal lining. These villi are little finger-like projections, which allow us to absorb nutrients from food. In the presence of gluten, the body attacks itself in these individuals, damaging the villi and therefore stopping nutrient absorption. A hallmark of celiac disease is nutrient deficiencies.
Gluten Sensitivity reactions are less severe, but the symptoms can be the same, causing confusion. Gluten-sensitive individuals generally will show a negative result on a coeliac biopsy and blood test, because the body is not attacking itself when gluten is consumed. The immune response is to the gluten itself (not the intestinal villi) causing a degree of inflammation and discomfort within the digestive tract.
There is a broad range of symptoms that can occur with gluten sensitivity, themost common being GIT upsets:
These symptoms are often labelled as IBS, which means anyone given this label should be tested for food intolerances. Other symptoms can include:
These symptoms are insidious and could be caused by many different conditions. If you suspect gluten sensitivity, an excellent place to start is to keep a food diary of what you eat and your symptoms.
Gluten intolerant individuals will often show up negative on a coeliac biopsy and blood test, so these testing options are the next step that you can take.
You can take what is called a Food Detective Professional test, which picks up specific IgG antibodies in your blood serum. This test is available in holistic clinicsand involves a simple finger prick of blood. It takes roughly an hour to developand shows up any food intolerances present based on the antibodies reaction to the food samples in the test tray. There is some debate about whether this type of test works effectively. I can say from my own clinical experiences that patients who use this test and follow the results show dramatic improvements to their health and wellbeing.
Another option is to try a gluten-free dietand watch your bodies’ reactions. You can slowly reintroduce gluten-containing foods and record your reactions. You may find that your bloating and irregular bowel habits rectify themselves once gluten is removed. This is a good confirmation that you are having difficulties with gluten.
Our favourite option is ournon-invasive hair sample test because of its life-changing results and the vast array of foods that it can test for. It doesn’t involve any blood, instead using a few strands of your hair. Using this test may show you that you have a problem with gluten, or perhaps gluten won’t show up, and you will find that the problem is another food you hadn’t yet thought of. You can order a test for yourself here:
Absolutely yes. Current standards for testing people for Coeliac disease will not pick up a less severe intolerance to gluten, but we do have the testing methods mentioned above that show up varying levels of intolerance.
The medical community also recognise that food intolerances, like gluten and yeast intolerance, do occur and removing the offending foods from people’s diets see’s a significant improvement in their health
Gluten-containing grains include:
Gluten-Free Grains that are safe for you to consume include:
Buckwheat bears no relationship to wheat whatsoever, and along with Quinoa is the best alternative to grains you can use. This is because both buckwheat and Quinoa are very high in protein, B vitamins and other vital nourishing nutrients.
There are more; we will do a more comprehensive an article on tips for finding gluten-containing ingredients on food labels at a later date.
We’ve now come to the fun part;the part where you get to try new foods and potentially experience more vitality, energy and wellbeing than you ever have before!
In my personal experience, eating gluten-free gave me a license to start eating and living a wholefoods lifestyle. This did absolute wonders for my health, from immediately clearing up my constant post nasal drip and hay fever like symptoms, to clearing my adult acne and removing my constant bloating, belching and wind. The benefits are endless and include the
apparent removal of your symptoms, but also an increase in your energy, brainpower, stamina, and so much more.
By adopting a whole foods way of eating, going gluten-free becomes easy. Read on to learn more!
Wholefoods are foods in their natural state, un-tampered with and unprocessed. These foods are nutrient-dense and provide the body with all the nutrition it needs. They include fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and fresh organic meats and eggs. There is absolutely NO gluten in any of these foods. Of course, you can add in gluten-free grains as well!
Being so nutrient-dense, your body needs less of these foods to feel full and satisfied. You will be satiated for longer, have more energy, and feel an overall sense of wellness. When you eat a Wholefoods diet, it’s a way of eating that naturally leads to benefits such as weight loss, increased energy, health and wellbeing. How amazing is this! It also means that you are naturally filling your plate up with way more vegetables and fruit than you did previously, and therefore consuming way more nutrition.
The best way to maintain a gluten-free and healthy lifestyle is to go back to basic whole food eating. This means loads of fresh veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds, eggs, meats and organic dairy if you tolerate it. Removing all packaged and pre-made foods from your pantry and replacing them with fresh foods is where you will find the most ease and benefit because these foods are naturally gluten-free and nutritious!
Some tips to get you started on your gluten-free and wholefoods journey:
1 – In the supermarket, shop the perimeter. This is the Fruit and vegetable aisles and fresh meat and produce. This way, you avoid processed ‘junk’ foods and therefore, most gluten-containing foods too.
2 – Ditch boxed gluten-free foods that contain preservatives, colours, chemicals and more than ten ingredients. They may be gluten-free, but they are NOT good for your health in any way.
3 – Cut out soft drinks, cordials, diet and energy drinks. Replace with water, add some fresh fruit (or herbs) for flavour.
4 – Avoid low-fat foods and beverages. They are very high in sugar and highly processed. Many also have gluten.
5 – Have two pieces of fresh fruit daily – this can be in smoothies or as snacks.
6 – Enjoy a small handful of nuts and seeds daily. These are naturally gluten-free.
7 – Add green leafy veggies into your diet, every day! Try them in green smoothies, salads, stir-fries& casseroles.
8 – Avoid pre-processed and packaged meals. The focus is on preparing meals and snacks at home that are quick, nutritious, satisfying and naturally gluten-free. Win.
This is a simple back to basics way of eating that is predominantly composed of fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, nuts and seeds and eggs. It’s effortless to be gluten-free when you follow this way of eating because these foods are all naturally gluten-free.
However, there are times when you want to have grain products, so here is a guide for choosing them well.
This is for things like gluten-free bread, pasta and crackers.
Usually because they have a gluten intolerance, as described in detail above. It is not the same as an allergy, but it causes a lot of uncomfortable symptoms and inflammation.
Also, some people just feel better without grains in their diet, so they follow a gluten-free way of eating to help with this.
Sometimes it can, but no it is not a rule of thumb.
Celiac patients can present with lactose intolerance due to the damage done to their intestinal villi. However, once this is healed, they can often tolerate lactose again.
No. Many ice creams contain gluten via additives and binders, so if you have a gluten allergy, are celiac, or want to avoid gluten because you are intolerant then you need to look for specific gluten-free ice creams. Or you could try making your own at home.
No. What can happen though is that you may have already had a gluten intolerance that you didn’t know about, which would have been significantly helped by the removal of gluten. Then when you reintroduce gluten foods back into your diet, your body has a stronger reaction to theinflammation they cause than it did previously.
Gluten/wheat is one of the most inflammatory foods that we can eat, and no one can digest it properly regardless of whether they exhibit symptoms or not.
100% yes! In fact, it is now recommended that patients diagnosed with Graves disease also have a Celiac biopsy due to the high prevalence of this in Graves patients.
Any thyroid disorder does not mix well with gluten, and it is recommended that ALL gluten sources be cut out of the diet of thyroid patients. Even a small amount of gluten can spike thyroid anti.bodies in a sensitive person, and this can take months to calm back down again.
Ultimately, if you ignore your body telling you that something is bothering it for long enough, you can cause a lot of damage.
However, an intolerance is not usually life-threatening like an allergy.
Gluten allergy and Celiac disease can kill you, but intolerances generally not.
Yes, it can, in fact some studies show strong correlations between non-celiac gluten sensitivity and anxiety or depression. We also know that there is a powerful link between your gut and your nervous system. In fact, much of your nervous system resides in the gut, and so consuming foods that are causing you inflammation will have an effect on your nervous system and it’s ability to function optimally. A symptom of this is the presentation of anxiety or depression.
If you are gluten intolerant but still consume gluten-containing products, and you also experience depression or anxiety, it is definitely worth removing all gluten from your diet for a reasonable period of time to see how this affects you.