Warning for people who eat bread, pasta and beer as thousands unknowingly living with illness

Shot of an uncomfortable looking young woman suffering from stomach cramps in her bedroom
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Health experts are encouraging Brits to check for gluten intolerance as new research reveals a high number of women experience bloating.

The Gauge on Gluten report indicates that one in three women suffer discomfort and sickness after consuming foods containing gluten, such as pasta and bread.

A significant 18% of women report feeling bloated, while one in 10 often suffer from diarrhoea, and worryingly, 7% experience brain fog, headaches and fatigue. However, 66% of women are unaware of what coeliac disease is, and over half (51%) feel more information is needed.

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It's estimated that half a million people are living with undiagnosed coeliac disease. Over a third (37%) mistakenly believe coeliac disease is a food intolerance, and nearly a quarter (22%) have no knowledge of the condition at all.

The difference between gluten intolerance and coeliac disease:

While gluten intolerance shares many symptoms with coeliac disease, they are not the same. Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disorder causing damage to the digestive tract, reports Wales Online.

On the other hand, those with gluten intolerance typically find relief from their symptoms by adhering to a gluten-free diet. The report also highlights that coeliac disease is frequently misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), with one in four sufferers initially receiving this diagnosis before discovering they have coeliac disease.

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:

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 you have coeliac disease antibodies in your blood, your GP will refer you to a gastroenterologist, a doctor who specialises in stomach and bowel conditions. The specialist may arrange further blood tests or an intestinal biopsy.

A biopsy is typically performed in hospital by a gastroenterologist and can help confirm a diagnosis of coeliac disease.

Bupa states that there is no specific test for gluten intolerance. You might be diagnosed with gluten intolerance if you are tested for coeliac disease and the result is negative.

This means coeliac disease is ruled out. Therefore, if you test negative for coeliac disease, your symptoms may be due to another cause.

If you believe your symptoms are caused by gluten, it's recommended to consult a doctor for further advice.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in foods containing 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 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 yogurt, 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.

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