Gluten: Elimination & Challenge Protocol

Many people have hidden food allergies (perhaps better described as intolerances). For a detailed discussion of this important subject read the article on allergy & intolerance here.

If it is thought that you, or someone you care for, have a gluten intolerance then the 'gold standard' method to prove or disprove this is to go through a short period of eliminating all gluten-containing products from the diet and then challenging the system by re-introducing them and observing what happens next. The following article explains this process in more detail

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The first stage is to completely avoid all foods that contain Gluten for 7-10 days.

This means you have to stop eating all foods that contain: Wheat, Rye, Barley and Oats.

It is vital that you understand that eating even tiny amounts of gluten can stop this test from working properly so you have to be really strict! Ask 'the cook' or carefully read the labels on all foods products to be 100% certain. Many people suffer from allergies to gluten so it is a legal requirement in most countries these days for manufacturers to state in bold writing on the label if the product contains any gluten (but note you do not need to worry about the lines that say 'may contain traces of', 'or manufactured in a factory that also processes gluten-containing products') You will see that many manufactured foods contain gluten in one form or another but there are also many gluten-free alternative products on the market.


The second stage is to challenge your immune system with some gluten

The second stage is challenging your body with some foods that are made with gluten products. The typical time period to eat a completely gluten-free diet before doing the challenge is 7-10 days. The typical amount of gluten to challenge with equates to approximately one piece of normal bread, or perhaps two weetbix, or a small bowl of pasta.

If you have an intolerance to gluten then what may happen during the gluten-free stage is that some health symptoms may improve or you may simply feel significantly better overall. Then, if you have a genuine intolerance, when you eat some gluten there is an obvious negative reaction that happens within 30 minutes to as much as 48 hours after you eat.

People will experience that reaction in different ways but it should be quite obvious that your body is being clearly and badly affected by the gluten challenge if you are genuinely intolerant. Let me be frank here and say that even when people do not have intolerance to gluten they will still usually get a mild adverse reaction from taking this challenge. This happens because we have a negative expectation and the mind convinces the body that it should feel something. Such false-positive reactions pass quickly and never amount to much. They typically include things such as a minor amount of bloating in the gut or a slight headache. Be assured that it is quite normal for some level of a low reaction to happen.

A true positive reaction to the challenge is quite clear cut. I won't say what typically happens here because then I may be influencing my reader with the power of suggestion but suffice to say you will know that you could not be mentally producing it!

The reason for there being quite a strong and palpable reaction is that if you have a true intolerance to gluten products your body's immune system is producing antibodies on a regular basis and when you suddenly stop having gluten altogether those antibodies build up to a peak at around 7-10 days. This means that you tend to have a much stronger reaction than normal if this is truly a food that has been upsetting your immune and general health.

If you prove to have a gluten intolerance then take careful note of the following

  • You must try to think about this as positively as you can. The fact is that if you have been intolerant to gluten then your health is going to be greatly improved by removing it from your diet.
  • You are not alone; many other people also have trouble with gluten. Make sure your friends and family understand what is going on for you and you will find a lot of support in the community. The way you present yourself to others will greatly influence how you feel about yourself. Don't tell people you are allergic to gluten as if it was some personal failing. These things are largely determined by genetics and you did not get to choose your genes! Tell people that you are gluten-free because you are working on getting healthy or getting better. When people hear that word 'because' and understand why you are doing something difficult then they instantly get on your side and want to support you - which in turn makes a big difference to your getting well.
  • There are many gluten-free cookbooks and other supportive literature available in libraries, bookshops and on the Internet, use this support, especially to make new and delicious foods.
  • There is an excellent possibility that you can cure intolerances so long as you get your immune system and general health into very good condition. For some people simple abstinence from the thing that was doing them harm will achieve this but other will need to take a more holistic approach. Read my article on immunity here to see some further strategies that may help in this process. As also linked at the top of the page my general article on allergy & intolerance here will be important for you to understand, especially the part at the end 'can food intolerance be cured?'
  • download the Gluten Free Diet guide (adobe reader required)

examples of gluten-free cooking

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!



© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd