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You Probably Don't Need to Be on that Gluten-free Diet

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Gluten-free doesn’t necessarily mean low calorie or healthier than foods containing gluten. The only people who need to steer clear of gluten are mainly those with intolerance to gluten or coeliac disease. Express.co.uk spoke to the experts at York Test to find out why gluten is bad for some people and how to tell if you should avoid gluten.

What is gluten?

Gluten is the name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale.

Used to bind foods together and help them maintain their shape, cattle bloat medicine gluten is most commonly found in bread, baked goods, pasta, cereals, beer, malt and rye bread.

Gluten is even used as a thickening agent so can be found in liquid-based products such as sauces, dressings and gravies.

Why is gluten bad for some people?

Gluten isn’t unhealthy but it is bad for people who suffer from gluten-related conditions.

The conditions, such as gluten intolerance, cause unpleasant and debilitating symptoms when the person ingests gluten.

The severity of the response depends on the condition the person has and how reactive they are to the gluten proteins.

It’s very important to understand which gluten health condition you or someone else has to make sure you don’t eat something your body can’t have by accident.

Coeliac disease

Coeliac disease is the most serious gluten-related condition because it has the most detrimental effects on someone’s wider health and wellbeing.

The York Test site explains: “Its symptoms can be severe, so gluten must be entirely eradicated from their diet.”

The main symptoms after eating foods that contain gluten are connected to the gut. They are:

  • diarrhoea, which may smell particularly unpleasant
  • stomach aches
  • bloating and farting (flatulence)
  • indigestion
  • constipation
  • Coeliac disease can also cause more general symptoms, including:
  • tiredness (fatigue) as a result of not getting enough nutrients from food (malnutrition)
  • unintentional weight loss
  • an itchy rash (dermatitis herpetiformis)
  • problems getting pregnant (infertility)
  • nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy)
  • disorders that affect co-ordination, balance and speech (ataxia)

Gluten intolerance

Gluten intolerance isn’t fun either, but it’s normally not as serious as coeliac disease.

The York Test advice reads: “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

Wheat allergies mean you react badly to any one of four proteins found in wheat, including gluten, albumin, globulin, or gliadin.

The York Test site says: “Allergies to gluten specifically are, in fact, rarer than the rest and are also commonly mistaken for coeliac disease.”

Wheat allergy and coeliac disease are different because wheat allergy results from an adverse immunologic reaction to the proteins in wheat and causes allergy symptoms involving the skin, gastrointestinal tract, respiratory system and even anaphylaxis in some cases, whereas coeliac is an autoimmune disease response to gluten.

Wheat intolerance

Intolerance to wheat means you experience the same symptoms as gluten intolerance, but it doesn’t mean you have both conditions.

The York Test site explains: “You 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.”

How do I know gluten is bad for me?

Gluten is only bad for people who suffer from one of the above conditions.

The York Test site explains: “Most sufferers report digestive discomfort as their first noticeable symptom of gluten intolerance.

“This is commonly described as abdominal pain and can be linked to bloating, constipation or diarrhoea.”

Regular discomfort shouldn’t be shrugged off as an “off day” or “bad meal,” you need to take any symptoms seriously.

The site adds: “Gluten conditions are an issue that is 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.”

Your GP might recommend you take an intolerance test such as York Test’s Premium Food Intolerance Test (£149 down from £199 at the moment), in order for you to get to the bottom of your gluten-related condition.

These 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.

The York Test site concludes: “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.”

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