What is Gluten and Why Is It Bad for Some People?

What is Gluten and Why Is It Bad for Some People?

3 minute read time

Getting to grips with gluten can feel like a minefield, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Whether you’ve recently been diagnosed with a gluten-related condition or you’re researching for a loved one, you’ve come to the right place to understand gluten proteins and how to deal with them.

What is gluten?

Gluten is found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye and spelt and is used to bind foods together in baking – it’s what you’ll usually find in the likes of bread, thanks to the elasticity it provides for the flour mixture when water is added.
The proteins can also be found in many other liquid-based consumables like sauces and gravies as it is employed as a thickening agent, so it can easily sneak into a diet undetected – that is until the gluten intolerance symptoms arise in sufferers after it is consumed.

Why is gluten bad for some of us?

Some people suffer from gluten-related conditions that cause unpleasant, uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating reactions in their immune systems. A gluten intolerance, for instance, means that gluten proteins are treated as foreign bodies when they enter a digestive system, so an inflammatory response (an IgG response, in the case of an intolerance) is triggered to fight them – this response can manifest itself in anything from bloating and abdominal pain to nausea and vomiting.

The severity of these responses depends upon the condition the person is suffering from and their reactiveness to gluten proteins therein. A gluten intolerance can appear later in life, sometimes with mild symptoms, whilst coeliac disease is a life-long, autoimmune condition that causes much more severe reactions that can damage the gut wall and lead to malnutrition.

What are the most common gluten health conditions?

There are a number of ways in which people can suffer from reactions to gluten, so it’s crucial to understand the differences before you drift into the realms of self-diagnosis or misdiagnosis. Here are the most common gluten-related conditions:

Coeliac disease: This is the most serious gluten-related condition as it can have detrimental effects on a sufferer’s wider health and wellbeing. Its symptoms can be severe, so gluten must be entirely eradicated from their diet.

Gluten intolerance: An intolerance to gluten produces similar symptoms to those of coeliac disease, but they are often less severe and can take longer to surface. Symptoms can include diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, headaches and tiredness.

Wheat allergy: An allergy to wheat can comprise of reactions to any one of four proteins that are found in it: albumin, globulin, gliadin and gluten. Allergies to gluten specifically are, in fact, rarer than the rest and are also commonly mistaken for coeliac disease.

Wheat intolerance: An intolerance to wheat means that a person can experience the same symptoms as a gluten intolerance, but it doesn’t mean that they have both conditions. They might only be intolerant to albumin, for example, but not to gluten. A person who is gluten intolerant is also wheat intolerant because gluten proteins are found in wheat, so this means that a wheat intolerant person won’t necessarily have to avoid gluten if they are reactive to a different protein.

What are the first signs of gluten intolerance?

Most sufferers report digestive discomfort as their first noticeable symptom of a gluten intolerance. This is commonly described as abdominal pain and can be linked to bloating, constipation or diarrhoea.

It’s all too easy for people to put discomfort down to a bad meal or an off day and it’s an issue that’s made worse by the fact that the symptoms can take up to three days to appear after gluten has been consumed. However, it’s important to seek help from a GP if signs and symptoms are appearing and, of course, if they’ve appeared more than once.

Is there a test for gluten sensitivity?

Upon receiving a recommendation from a GP, there are tests by YorkTest you can take to get to the bottom of your apparent gluten-related condition. Rather than risk a self-diagnosis, our tests use lab-developed methods to gauge your IgG reactions to foods and drinks for intolerances and your IgE reactions for allergies.

They do not test for coeliac disease, but the results can help a doctor eliminate the possibility of other conditions during a diagnosis as such. If you’re worried you or a loved one might be suffering from a gluten-related condition, a GP’s advice must be sought out before taking one of our tests.

You can get in touch today to find out more.

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