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 or disprove this is to go through a short period of eliminating all gluten from the diet and then challenging the system by re-introducing some dairy and observing what happens during the whole process.

For a more detailed discussion about allergies and intolerances read here.

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Stage 1: Completely avoid all Gluten for 7-10 days.

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

This said, note that you do not need to worry if it says, 'may contain traces of gluten', or 'manufactured in a factory that also processes gluten 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.


Stage 2: Challenge your immune system

The second stage is challenging your immune system with some gluten. 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 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 experience a negative reaction in different ways but it should be obvious that your body is being clearly and badly affected by the gluten challenge if you are genuinely intolerant.

Some people do not have intolerance to gluten but may still demonstrate a mildly adverse reaction to the challenge. This can happen when there is a negative expectation and the mind has convinced 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, all of which soon pass.

A true positive reaction to the challenge is quite clear cut and much more lasting. The reason for there being a strong and palpable reaction is that if you have a true intolerance to gluten, then your body's immune system will be producing antibodies to it on a regular basis so, 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 triggering your immune system.

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 the article on immunity here to see some further strategies that may help in this process. As also linked at the top of the page the general article on allergy & intolerance here will be important to read, 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