Making Sense of Gluten Intolerance

wheatMany people have problems when they eat wheat.  It gives them stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea, headaches, chronic coughs, brain fog, fatigue, depression or any number of other symptoms.

What they don’t often realize is that gluten intolerance may be the culprit. Gluten intolerance is sometimes called a wheat allergy, but it’s really about more than wheat – gluten is a protein source found in wheat, bran, barley and other grass-related grains, too.

Gluten Intolerance vs Celiac Disease
Many people are familiar with celiac disease. It’s an autoimmune disease of the intestine in which the immune system is actually attacking the walls of the intestine. Determining if you have celiac disease is done through a blood test, but can only be conclusively determined by doing a biopsy of the intestines.

Gluten intolerance, though, is a little different. In celiac disease, the rogue immune cells are turned on by gluten. When we’re intolerant of gluten, however, the immune cells in our gut see gluten itself as an invader, and they attack.

This process makes a small amount of inflammation, and in most cases, this is no big deal – just a normal and healthy response to an invader.  The problem is that in our culture, we eat a lot of gluten. Toast and cereal for breakfast. A sandwich for lunch. Pasta for dinner. With each meal, the immune system sees invaders and reacts with inflammation over and over again. Over time, the inflammation builds up, and so do the symptoms.

Testing Your Reaction to Gluten
It takes some practice and experimentation to connect what we eat with how we feel. So how do you know if you have a gluten intolerance?

There are a couple of ways. The first is an elimination diet – an experiment. Simply remove gluten completely from your diet for 30 days, then reintroduce it and see if your symptoms come back.

The elimination method can work quite well, but there are two challenges. The first is that it takes 30 days, and removing gluten completely can be a real challenge. It’s easy to slip up, and to really make the experiment work, you need to completely get the gluten sources out of your diet for a month.

The second challenge is that you may have more than one intolerance, and removing one thing from your diet won’t clearly identify the problem.

Fortunately, gluten intolerance can also be determined through an IgG antibody test, which measures the antibodies in blood to different food proteins.


Contact the office at (705) 444-5331 to learn about our food intolerance testing, and solutions for allergies and related digestive complaints like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis or irritiable bowel syndrome (IBS).


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