How to tell if you're gluten intolerant as 1 in 3 women suffer from bloating

Shot of an uncomfortable looking young woman suffering from stomach cramps in her bedroom
-Credit: (Image: Getty)


Health experts are urging Brits to check if they have a gluten intolerance as new research has found many women suffer from bloating. According to data in a Gauge on Gluten report, one in three women report suffering from discomfort and sickness after eating gluten-laced foods - like pasta and bread.

Up to 18% of women say they feel bloated, one in 10 say they often endure diarrhoea, and alarmingly, 7% reported brain fog, headaches and tiredness. Yet, 66% of women don’t know what coeliac disease is, and 51% believe more information is needed.

It’s estimated that 500,000 people are living undiagnosed with the condition. More than a third (37%) also believe coeliac disease is a food intolerance and nearly a quarter (22%) do not know about the condition at all.

Difference between a gluten intolerance and coeliac disease:

Although gluten intolerance has a lot of the same symptoms as coeliac disease, it is not the same condition. Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disorder that leads to damage to the digestive tract.

Meanwhile, people with a gluten intolerance usually find relief from their symptoms by following a gluten-free diet. According to the report, coeliac disease is also commonly misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), with one in four sufferers often being given this diagnosis before discovering they have the condition.

Type:

Coeliac disease:

Gluten intolerance:

Definition

An autoimmune disease where your immune system attacks your body when you eat gluten.

When your body reacts badly to gluten but it is not related to your immune system.

Symptoms

Diarrhoea, tummy cramps, bloating and flatulence (passing excess wind), weight loss, fatigue.

Abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, fatigue, brain fog, joint and muscle pain, skin rashes.

Diagnosis

Blood test and biopsy of your small intestine.

Other reasons for adverse reaction to gluten are excluded (such as coeliac disease).

Treatment

Following a gluten-free diet.

Following a gluten-free diet to avoid symptoms but small amounts of gluten may be tolerated.

If someone with celiac disease eats gluten, their immune system will start attacking their own body's tissue. On the other hand, if someone is gluten intolerant, eating gluten will lead to temporary bloating and stomach pain. Unlike celiac disease, gluten intolerance typically doesn't cause any lasting damage to the body.

How to tell if you have a gluten intolerance or coeliac disease:

A young celiac woman suffers from abdominal pain after eating fresh bread.
Your doctor may ask you to have a blood test -Credit:Getty

The NHS states a GP will arrange a blood test to check for antibodies usually present in the blood of people with coeliac disease. You should include gluten in your diet when the blood test is done because avoiding it could lead to an inaccurate result.

If coeliac disease antibodies are found in your blood, the GP will refer you to a doctor who specialises in stomach and bowel conditions (gastroenterologist). The specialist may arrange more blood tests, or a biopsy of your intestine.

A biopsy is done in hospital, usually by a gastroenterologist. A biopsy can help confirm a diagnosis of coeliac disease.

According to Bupa, there is no specific test for gluten intolerance. You might get diagnosed with gluten intolerance if you are tested for coeliac disease and get a negative result.

This means coeliac disease is ruled out. So, when you test negative for coeliac disease, your symptoms may be because of something else.

If you have symptoms and you think it’s because of gluten, speak to a doctor for further advice.

What is gluten?

Celiac Disease And Gluten Intolerance. Women Holding Spikelet Of Wheat
Gluten is found in foods that contain wheat, barley and rye -Credit:Getty

Gluten is a protein found in foods that contain wheat, barley and rye. Common sources of gluten include bread, pastry, cakes, pasta, pizza bases, biscuits, breakfast cereals, processed foods such as sausages, soups, sauces, and ready meals. Most beers also contain gluten and oats may also be contaminated with gluten.

Three top tips for a happier gut:

Priya Tew, a registered dietitian, was diagnosed with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity 20 years ago. Priya, who is registered with the Health Professions Council and the British Dietetic Association, had to change her diet and approach to eating.

Salad sense: Priya says: "Adding more plant foods to your diet is a brilliant way to help your gut health. However, salads can also be a point where more gluten-containing foods can creep into your diet without you realising as gluten can be found in couscous, pasta, croutons and dressings.

"So, if you suspect you have a gluten intolerance or suffer from coeliac disease make sure to check salad dressings and choose gluten-free alternatives such as quinoa and buckwheat or try a noodle salad made from 100% yellow pea noodles."

Feeling bloated: The health expert added: "Chewing your food well can help start the digestive process off. Eat away from distractions and take your time over meals.

"This helps your brain connect with your gut. Aim to stay calm and connected before and during meals as stress can make a huge difference. If this is a recurrent problem it could be a symptom of a gluten intolerance – try switching to gluten-free pastas, which could ease symptoms.

"If you suspect something more serious like coeliac disease, try Coeliac UK’s online self-assessment as you may be one of the 500,000 undiagnosed sufferers."

Include Probiotics and Prebiotics: Probiotics are beneficial bacteria for your gut that are found in fermented foods like natural yoghurt, kefir, sourdough bread, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha. Prebiotics, on the other hand, are types of fibre that feed the good bacteria in your gut.

Priya says foods high in prebiotics include apples, garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, bananas, and oats. Including both probiotics and prebiotics in your diet helps maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria.