What is Gluten Intolerance?
A gluten intolerance is an adverse reaction to foods containing it, resulting in symptoms such as bloating and constipation, however, the problems are not life threatening. A gluten intolerance or sensitivity is one of the most common food intolerances and, in recent years, there has been an increasing awareness of the condition too.
An intolerance to gluten is a digestive condition that can have symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and indigestion. It is not to be confused with coeliac disease, a lifelong auto-immune disorder that causes the body’s immune system to attack the small intestine when gluten is consumed, but these conditions can display similar symptoms.
Removing gluten from a diet is essential for people with coeliac disease, which is estimated to affect one per cent of the population, as it can lead to other debilitating problems if left undiagnosed. The digestive condition of gluten intolerance, on the other hand, can be pinpointed and overcome via tests and dietary adjustments.
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What is Gluten?
One of the first questions people ask is ‘what is gluten?’. Gluten is a protein composite consisting of the elements gliadin and glutenin which is found in several types of grains, including wheat, spelt, rye and barley and therefore most cereals and breads. Effectively, it is the elastic, rubbery protein in grains that binds the dough in bread and other baked goods and helps give a spongy consistency.
Symptoms of gluten intolerance
You may experience a number of gluten intolerance symptoms – it varies person to person.
Signs may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Weight gain
- Skin problems, like eczema, psoriasis, rashes, itchy skin, hives
What is the impact of being gluten intolerant?
If you have gluten intolerance you should avoid eating wheat and similar grains. However, if you have wheat intolerance alone, you do not necessarily need to avoid gluten.
First things first, you’ll need to cut gluten out of your diet and this may mean that some popular dishes and drinks may no longer be available to you – pasta and processed foods such as bread are usually the big offenders but also beer and ales will also have to take a backseat.
Surprisingly, not all food grains contain gluten; wild rice, corn, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, quinoa, soybeans and sunflower seeds do not and there is a huge selection of “gluten free-from” foods in most supermarkets.
Being thought a fussy eater in social situations can be another concern for gluten intolerance sufferers. Whilst there will definitely be an adjustment period you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll adapt to reaching for gluten-free rather than wheat based products. In addition, given the awareness of the increasing prevalence of gluten intolerance, many restaurants now offer gluten-free products e.g. Carluccios offers gluten-free pasta to their customers so having a gluten intolerance doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to all treats when eating out.
How do you test for gluten intolerance?
If you often feel bloated or get constipation or stomach pain after eating, you should first be examined by your doctor before cutting things out of your diet or deciding to go gluten-free.
If you get the all-clear and think certain foods could be contributing to your symptoms, it is worth considering a food intolerance test. Food intolerance is characterised as a delayed onset food reaction and is estimated to affect 45 per cent of the UK*.
However, since symptoms may not manifest until up to three days after eating problem ingredients and, on average, people react to between four and six ingredients, it is difficult to work out what is causing a reaction.
The body produces food-specific IgG antibodies as a defence against certain ingredients that may not agree with you and a reaction manifests when incompletely digested food particles enter the bloodstream and are treated as foreign substances – antibodies are formed and can generate an inflammatory response.
Many people try keeping a food diary or cutting out certain foods themselves, but it can be hard to ascertain what the culprits are; moreover, a diet suitable for one person may not help another as every individual has his or her own food triggers .
Understanding your personal food and drink intolerances or ‘food fingerprint’ can help you identify what your body is reacting to in an adverse manner. A YorkTest Food&DrinkScan programme can pinpoint precisely which foods are causing elevated levels of IgG antibodies in your blood, as it tests reactions to foods and shows the degree of reaction through a ‘traffic light’ system: red for high, amber for borderline and green for no reaction at all.
It is also important to get expert nutritional advice, so you can replace your trigger foods with balanced alternatives.
Dr Gill Hart, Scientific Director at YorkTest, says: “A lot of people now are self-diagnosing, the fad being gluten-free and dairy-free. People are doing that without any support and sometimes without replacing eliminated foods with something equally nutritious.
“They are doing that on their own and starting an elimination diet with no knowledge at all. What YorkTest provides is a starting point for an elimination diet, with results that reflect the body’s needs. The IgG antibodies are there in your blood, we measure them accurately and let you know about the foods your body is fighting.
“We encourage anyone who experiences negative symptoms after eating and drinking that they think may be attributable to food or drink ingredients to find out what’s personally holding them back from being the healthiest they can be. We’ve learnt from our customers’ feedback that diet personalisation not only holds the key to good health, but to losing weight, too.”
Is gluten intolerance that common?
A quick search for ‘gluten intolerance’ in a search engine will bring up loads of advice and bloggers detailing their experiences with living gluten-free so you won’t have to feel alone. You’ll find plenty more nutritional recipes here too.
What is a gluten-free diet?
Gluten-free diets have surged in popularity in recent years. Supermarkets devote whole aisles to products and restaurants have entirely gluten-free options on the menu to cater for customers’ dietary requirements.
Gluten-free is one of the biggest revolutions in the food industry since vegetarianism. From gluten-free vodka to popcorn, there doesn’t seem to be a food that is not ‘free from’ if you want it.
A diet of this nature consists of cutting out all foods that might be igniting the intolerance, such as wheat, rye or barley, which could appear as wholegrains or thickening agents in processed foods. Couscous, bulgur, spelt and matzo are also commonly removed from the diets of people with a gluten intolerance.
How removing ‘trigger’ foods can aid weight loss
Food intolerances have a crucial impact on weight loss and obesity. Dr Hart authored a whitepaper  showing that a balanced diet that removes common food triggers may aid in shedding excess weight.
The pilot study surveyed a wide range of individuals who took a food-specific IgG test programme with YorkTest and embarked on an elimination diet after they identified their personal food triggers.
The findings revealed that:
- 83 per cent experienced weight loss in the first two-to-four weeks
- 43 per cent lost between 11Ibs and 20Ibs
- 9 per cent lost even more than this, despite the fact that the main objective for the majority (87 per cent) was to ease digestive issues or other symptoms.
Dr Hart says: “Evidence suggests a food intolerance-led elimination diet can help sufferers of conditions such as bloating, migraine, indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), among other complaints, and improve quality of life.
“But these findings show an important link to weight loss, too. There are countless dietary programmes out there, but none recognise the possibility that some foods, even healthy ones like carrots or lentils, buckwheat or limes, could be an obstacle to losing weight.”
What foods contain gluten?
Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley and any foods made with these grains. It can be difficult to identify all the foods you need to avoid as these grains are often used as thickening agents in processed foods, sauces and even meat products. It is important to check labels for ingredients. Foods to avoid If you experience symptoms of gluten intolerance include:
- Wheat (starch, bran and germ)
- Cracked and durum wheat
What foods are gluten free?
To ensure you maintain a balanced diet which provides the carbohydrates, fibre and vitamins you need, you can supplement your meals with a variety of gluten free alternatives such as:
• Corn (maize)
In baking, to replace ingredients containing gluten, you can use the following substitutes:
• Agar-agar – thickening and binding agent made from seaweed
• Guar gum – a thickening made from the seeds of the guar plant
• Carob flour – a thickener made from the ground kernels of the carob fruit
• Potato flour – a starchy thickener used in sauces, soups and dumplings
YorkTest advises that you consult with your GP first if you are experiencing the types of symptoms mentioned in this testimonial.
If you have found out that you are intolerant to gluten, changing your diet need not be daunting. YorkTest Nutritional Therapists are here to help you understand how to optimise your food choices.
For more information please contact our friendly team on 0800 074 6185 to find out more.
Information provided above regarding Food Intolerance (defined by YorkTest as a food specific IgG reaction) is intended to provide nutritional advice for dietary optimisation. YorkTest recommend that you discuss any medical concerns you have with a GP before undertaking a YorkTest programme.
- Research from Instituto de Investigacion Sanitaria La Fe
- Defined as those causing a positive IgG reaction to antibodies in the blood * Allergy UK
- Whitepaper: Food-specific IgG guided Elimination Diet: A Strategy for Weight Loss? Dr Gillian R. Hart, May 2016. The pilot surveyed 38 subjects.
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