YOU can't seem to get those digestive issues under control, especially after having meals such as wheat-based foods, and there's continuous flatulence, bloating, constipation and diarrhoea. And while you continue to blame your stomach for being too sensitive all the time, internist Dr Jomo James says that it is possible that you could be gluten intolerant.
“Gluten is a component of many foods that we eat or encounter in everyday life. It is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, barley and sometimes oats, and most of the world's staple foods are made up of at least one or more of these types of proteins,” Dr James said.
He pointed out that wheat is almost everywhere — it is a grain used to make or process bread, pasta and cereal. Barley is commonly found in beer and in foods containing malt, and rye is an ingredient in rye beer, rye bread and some cereals.
And while most of us experience only the delicious taste of these staples, unfortunately, some people are allergic to this protein, and can develop an allergic reaction as their bodies try to reject it.
Dr James advised that when this occurs it can lead to mild or even life-threatening symptoms for the condition known as “gluten intolerance”, “wheat allergy”, or the more severe Celiac disease. He said that you are likely intolerant to gluten if you experience one of the following symptoms consistently within minutes or up to two hours after eating foods containing gluten.
•Nausea and vomiting
•Stomach upset (bloating and gas)
•Hives and rash
•Gradual weight loss, as your body does not absorb any food. This is mostly marked in children who fail to thrive, and often become anaemic.
“The more life-threatening symptoms such as difficulty breathing will require immediate medical care, although this is rare. More often than not, the milder symptoms persist unbeknownst for years, and many people go undiagnosed even as they struggle with these symptoms,” Dr James shared.
He advised that once you suspect that you may be gluten intolerant you should check it out. In fact, he says that there are a number of ways to find out, including matching your symptoms to your gluten consumption. He warns that more severe cases should always be evaluated and treated by a medical doctor.
“Gluten intolerance can be ruled out by trial and error. If, for instance, you find that you are having these symptoms after eating certain foods, you can try a gluten elimination diet. This works by eliminating all food that contains gluten for two to three weeks (it takes this long to process the residual gluten out your body) then slowly reintroduce it thereafter,” Dr James instructed.
Having done this, he says that if you notice you feel better after elimination then worse after re-introduction, then you're probably gluten intolerant. In addition to this method, he said that you can also determine with careful selection which particular gluten protein you are sensitive to, whether it is barley, wheat or rye. If even after the experiments you are still unsure about the diagnosis or if your symptoms persist, Dr James said that it is best that you get evaluated by a medical doctor.
For those who are gluten intolerant or suspect that they may be, Dr James said that there are a number of changes to be made if you don't want to deal with the associated complications.
“A complete gluten-free diet is the only prevention and treatment for gluten intolerance in the long run. A gluten-free diet will take determination and a strong will, as the most popular if not the most delicious foods contain gluten. It involves reading the labels on food products very carefully. This diet has the added benefit of being healthy and can actually help you lose weight if you desire to. A dietitian can help you in this regard,” Dr James advised.