Gluten is a protein found in several grain crops. Barley, Rye, Oats, Wheat & Spelt (I use the acronym B.R.O.W.S to remember these grains). ⠀

The gluten protein is what makes these flours sticky/gluey; This is why these grains are often used to make breads and other baked goods.⠀

Testing for a gluten allergy (Coeliac disease) is usually done by a blood test to check for antibodies followed by a gut biopsy. The only treatment is completely avoiding gluten. There are many cases where a case of coeliac has gone undetected for several years and the individual has been suffering long term with many illnesses – which often include autoimmune conditions.

For any of these tests (for both a gluten allergy or intolerance) to give a definitive diagnosis, it is suggested that people eat gluten foods at least three times a day (a minimum of 4 pieces of bread daily) for 4-8 weeks prior to testing. This can be very debilitating for some and often they choose not to do the test and just avoid gluten anyway.

Genetic testing for coeliac disease is now available. It is often suggested if an individual has a family member with coeliac. Returning a negative gene result eliminates the likelihood of developing coeliac. People with coeliac carry at least one of the two genes however so do 25-30% of the general population and to obtain a true diagnosis a biopsy is still required.

Intolerances are harder to diagnose as the symptoms don’t often appear directly after consuming gluten. Sometimes it can be more than 24 hours later. Often a blood spot test is done through a natural practitioner and different antibodies are tested for. The gold star test for most food intolerances however is an elimination diet, where the food is excluded from the diet for a period and then reintroduced and any reactions noted.

If gluten intolerance is suspected or diagnosed you should completely remove all gluten-containing products from your diet. It may take 6-8 weeks to see a change in any symptoms. Some people may be able to re-introduce small amounts of gluten after doing some gut healing. ⠀
Children with an intolerance may grow out of it. This occurs more quickly if the food is completely avoided and the body is allowed the time to heal. (This often takes some supplementation and support suggested by your health practitioner). Gluten should perhaps be food that this person eats sparingly throughout their life. ⠀

There are many conversations around today’s gluten-containing grains not being what they used to be, therefore people even when healed are often advised to eat very little, if any gluten. Gluten-containing foods can be quite inflammatory for most of the population and may be best avoided or eaten in moderation by most people. Anecdotally, some gluten-sensitive people find that they better tolerate gluten-containing grains grown in different countries – especially European countries.

Natalee Durrant – Naturopath and Medical Herbalist