The number of people who think they have a food intolerance has risen dramatically over recent years with a whopping 25% of Australians believing they have an intolerance to certain foods. There are many theories as to the reason for this, including a reduction in the quality of our food and poor lifestyles putting our bodies under consistent stress. One of the most common food sensitivities is caused by a protein called gluten, which is found in three types of cereal: barley, rye and wheat.
Some common symptoms of gluten intolerance include bloating, flatulence, diarrhoea, indigestion, stomach pain, skin rashes and itching. Typically, if you are non-Coeliac gluten sensitive (NCGS) then these symptoms would occur a few hours after eating the food containing gluten.
Could you be gluten intolerant? There are a number of things you can do if you suspect you might be sensitive to gluten:
- Keep a food diary and make note of all the times you eat gluten, listing any symptoms that might occur, and how long it takes for them to come on
- Eliminate gluten from your diet for 3-6 weeks and see if your symptoms improve
- Gradually re-introduce gluten into your diet and see if your symptoms return. If they do persist, you may find that it’s only after you have consumed a certain amount of gluten, if so, find your threshold and try to stick to it
The good news is that having a gluten intolerance is not the same thing as having a gluten allergy or Coeliac disease. The main differences being that it:
- does not affect your immune system, there’s no allergic reaction and it is not life-threatening
- causes symptoms to come on slowly (hours after eating the food)
- needs a certain amount of gluten to be ingested in order to bring about the above symptoms
Coeliac disease on the other hand is an autoimmune condition. When Coeliacs eat food containing gluten, their body attacks itself causing damage to the intestines, which affects the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food.
If you think that you may in fact have Coeliac disease, it is recommended to seek urgent professional medical advice. In the case of any intolerance or sensitive reaction to a certain food group, it is best to consult a nutritionist and formulate a dietary plan to get to the bottom of the concerns.