Sunday, October 20, 2013

How to Know If You Are Gluten-Intolerant

Many people suffer for years with the symptoms of gluten-intolerance, without any idea that their ill health is caused by bread, pasta, and other flour-based foods we all eat every single day.

If you suffer from symptoms such as irritable bowel syndrome, wind, general aches and pains, depression and even obesity - you need to check this out. Nobody should have to put up with this stuff any longer than they have to.

But *HOW* do you find out for sure?

First, the bad news. You cannot go to the doctor and get a blood test, or any other sort of test, to find out if you are gluten intolerant. The tests they provide in medical establishments are only useful for checking whether you have an *allergy*. And gluten intolerance (along with lots of other food-related problems) is not an allergy. Generally speaking, the immune system is not involved at all, so the tests can't detect it.

Another problem you might come across is that many in the medical profession (particularly in the NHS) laugh at the possibility of any problem that can't be measured, weighed, put in a test tube and filed away in a dusty filing cabinet. "Food intolerance doesn't exist," they may say, flying in the face of the many migraine-sufferers who daren't touch a chocolate bar or an orange.

But the good news is that the tide is turning. And you can test for gluten intolerance on your own, without Dr. Canute's help.

There are two methods you can use. The first involves keeping a food diary. If you are experiencing symptoms as a result of eating gluten, in 2 or 3 weeks you should be able to see a pattern emerging.

The other method, if you think that gluten is the likely cause, is to simply eliminate it from your diet for a couple of weeks, take a note of the results, then very slowly and carefully bring it back and see if anything develops.

Of the foods likely to cause problems because of intolerance, gluten is number one, with corn and milk in joint second place. So gluten is a good place to start, if you suspect your depression or arthritis, etc. is the result of food intolerance.

Cutting gluten out of your diet completely is not easy - I know, because I myself am gluten intolerant. You will need to check every packet, jar and tin in your cupboard and every label on foods you buy. You can get gluten-free products, but most of them are horrible. It's better just to decide to go without, at least for a few weeks while you test the water.

You need to avoid anything containing wheat, barley, rye or flour made from these grains. So, bread, pasta, cakes, biscuits and cookies, pizza and pies, chapatis and nan bread are all out the window. So, too are many tinned and packet foods, because they often contain hidden flour. Two other items you need to avoid are monosodium glutamate (the clue is in the name) and soya sauce, which is made from soy beans fermented with wheat.

Gluten can often appear on labels as "starch". You will find it in yogurts, ketchup, and all manner of products you never expected. You may not expect to find it in your instant coffee, for instance, but if it's a cheap brand, it may well be in there. Check the labels on *everything*, even if it can't possibly have flour in it - I mean, did you think there was flour in crab sticks or grated cheese?

And if your head is reeling, and you're wondering what you can eat, think potatoes, crisps (be careful of the flavored coating - check the label), rice and rice cakes (you can get chocolate coated ones), lentils, peas and beans - these will give you the carbohydrates you are missing from the other stuff - and to thicken your gravy and sauces, you can use arrowroot or rice flour (check the specialist shelves in the supermarket).

It may seem like a lot of work, just to find out if you have a problem, but the only way to absolutely *for certain* check for food intolerance is, first to eliminate it for a couple of weeks, and then re-introduce it a little at a time.

And if you find out using this method that you do need to cut out gluten, you will be feeling so much healthier, it won't seem a problem any more.

Happy eating!

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