Gluten: Elimination & Challenge Protocol

If it is thought that you, or someone you care for, may have a gluten intolerance then the 'gold standard' method to prove this is to go through a stage 1 period of eliminating all gluten from the diet and then a stage 2 period of challenging the body by re-introducing the gluten and then observing what happens during both the elimination and the challenge stages.

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Stage 1: Completely avoid all Gluten for 2 to 3 weeks

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

You must understand that any amount 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 as an ingredient of the food.
You will see that many manufactured foods contain gluten in one form or another but you do not need to worry if it says, 'may contain traces of gluten', or 'manufactured in a factory that also processes gluten products'


Stage 2: Challenge your immune system

The second stage is challenging your immune system with some gluten. The usual minimum time-frame to completely avoid all gluten before doing the challenge is two weeks but some people prefer to go up to three weeks to see a major clearing out of their previous symptoms of gluten intolerance and in clinical practice we usually advise a three week break before the challenge phase. The typical amount of gluten to challenge with equates to approximately two pieces of normal bread, or one bowl of pasta.

If you have an intolerance to gluten then what is expected to happen during the gluten-free stage is that some health symptoms improve or that you will feel significantly better overall. Then, if there is a genuine intolerance, when some gluten has been eaten there is a clear and obvious negative reaction that happens afterwards, sometimes quickly, within just an hour or so, sometimes taking as much as a day to fully manifest.

A significantly upset bowel (e.g. diarrhoea or severe bloating) is the symptom most people will experience if they have a real gluten intolerance. Some people will manifest other kinds of symptoms, itchy skin rashes, headaches, pronounced fatigue etc. The main point here is that it should be obvious that your body is being clearly and badly affected by the gluten if you are genuinely intolerant to it.

Some people will not have an intolerance to gluten but may still demonstrate a mild and transient adverse reaction when they perform the challenge stage. This is not uncommon and happens because we can build up an expectation that the gluten is going to make us feel bad and then our mind convinces our body that it should feel something unpleasant. This phenomenon happens to perfectly rational and intelligent people, it is just a part of human nature and it should be accepted and understood.

What needs to be known here is that a clearly positive reaction to the challenge is much clearer cut and usually quite a lot more lasting. People with a genuine gluten intolerance react more strongly than usual during the challenge stage because their body continues to produce antibodies to the gluten even when it isn't being consumed and these build to a relatively higher level after a week or more. This means that, if it was something that was habitually triggering their immune systems, the person typically has a much stronger reaction than usual when they break their gluten-free diet,

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

~ You must think about this matter 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

~ For a comprehensive list of 'safe foods' and 'foods to avoid', download the Gluten free diet guide here

~ There are many gluten-free cookbooks and other supportive literature available in libraries, bookshops and on the Internet, use this support

~ You are not alone; many others have intolerances to gluten. Make sure your friends and family understand what is going on for you and be sure to tell them that you have done a 'gold-standard' or 'medical test' to confirm that you have a genuine gluten intolerance. Letting people know in such a way can change their view from one where they might see you as being wilfully difficult to one where they want to help you get better

~ There is a possibility that you can cure intolerances so long as you get your general health and immune system into 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. For a more detailed discussion about allergies and intolerances in general, including a discussion on 'can food intolerance be cured?' read here

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