So be prepared for another gut-twister - apparently those symptoms are all in your head, according to an allergy specialist based in the United States. And the UK's leading charity Allergy UK agrees.
“It was shocking to me, the amount of misinformation that is available to the general public,” he said. Dr Stukus is an allergist at Nationwide Children's Hospital and assistant professor of pediatrics at Ohio State University.
At the top of his list is people claiming to be allergic to bread.
"Gluten has been blamed for all that ails humanity. But there are only three disorders you can attribute to gluten on a scientific basis: coeliac disease, wheat allergies and non-coeliac gluten sensitivity.
“Then there’s this claim about ‘gluten allergy,’ which really doesn’t exist. It’s not really a recognized allergy. Wheat is a recognized allergy — but a lot of people will misinterpret that as gluten.”
Director of clinical services, Maureen Jenkins from Allergy UK agrees.
"Everything that is written here is true. Quite understandingly, it's the terminology that confuses people as allergic disease is complex. Coeliac is a very serious auto-immune disorder that seriously damages the lining of the small intestine, reducing its ability to absorb nutrients. It affects at least 1 in 100 people in the UK and should be medically diagnosed.
"A few people have a sensitivity (not allergy) to gluten in foods, causing wind and bloating, but no damage to the gut. There are some severe inflammatory joint disorders that seem to improve on a low carbohydrate diet. This is not allergy but is related to effect on a specific gut bacteria and should not be confused with allergic conditions affecting the intestinal tract."
Talking to HuffPost UK Lifestyle, The Food Doctor nutritionist Alice Mackintosh says while it is rare to be 'allergic' to gluten, it isn't as simple as that. "Allergies and intolerance are an incredibly complex area and simply self-diagnosing one is a rather misguided way of managing the problem," she says.
"You tend to know about it if you have a full blown allergy to something and it isn’t that common for allergies to suddenly develop for no reason. Gluten is no exception and unless you have coeliac disease, it is rare to actually be ‘allergic’ to gluten itself.
"The crux is that foods containing gluten such as bread, pasta and cereals etc – which are very prevalent in the western diet - often have a number of other ingredients that can cause problems for people. Wheat and yeast are the front runners and if your digestion isn’t up to scratch, symptoms can develop that may lead you to think you have a problem with these types of foods. This is a very common problem we see in clinic, and managing digestion is a far more straightforward and sustainable route to the solution. Unfortunately however, the ‘gluten-intolerant’ bandwagon is perhaps an easier one to jump on these days given the prevalence of it in the media.
"That being said, there is no doubt that people would do well not to overdo gluten in the diet namely because the processed and refined foods in which it is so often found contain little benefit to us other than being a basic form of energy. Going for healthy alternatives such as brown rice, quinoa, lentils and beans that are naturally gluten free and nutrient dense is a better way of avoiding gluten and getting more variety in the diet."
WHAT IS COELIAC'S DISEASE?
Coeliac's disease, is not just an allergy to gluten, it's what gluten does to the immune system.
- Coeliac disease is a lifelong autoimmune disease caused by intolerance to gluten
- 1 in 100 people have the condition
- Symptoms include bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, wind, constipation, tiredness, headaches, sudden weight loss, hair loss, anaemia and osteoporosis
- Once diagnosed, it is treated by following a gluten-free diet for life
- Dermatitis herpetiformis is the skin manisfestation of coeliac disease.
Source: Coeliac UK
Dr Stukus, whose work is being presented at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) has also said that we should disabuse ourselves of the notion that pets can be hypoallergenic.
"Allergens are released in saliva, sebaceous glands and perianal glands," the Daily Mail reported him as saying. "It's not the fur people are allergic to. It is true that some breeds are more bothersome for allergy sufferers than others’ – which is why some people are fine around some breeds and not others."
While processed foods are slowly but surely cutting back on trans fat, it's still smart to investigate labels for hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils and leave those packages on the shelf. <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15051604">Trans fats can induce inflammation</a> by <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/trans-fat/CL00032/NSECTIONGROUP=2">damaging the cells in the lining of blood vessels</a>, according to the Mayo Clinic, part of the reason many companies are limiting use to begin with, says Sandquist. Although small amounts of trans fats do occur naturally in certain foods, the majority are manmade and therefore difficult for the body to process, Black explains. "Our body doesn't have a natural mechanism for breaking it down," which can trigger an inflammatory response," she says.
"Trans fats should be old news, sugar should be new news," says Black, calling it the food item we most ignore when it comes to our health (although, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/28/sugar-type-2-diabetes-rates-robert-lustig_n_2750965.html">that may be changing</a>). "I don't think our body was meant to break down as much sugar as we consume," she says. Too much sugar can alert the body to <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/20/health/food-cause-pain-daniluk">send out extra immunity messengers</a>, called cytokines, Daniluk wrote for CNN.
White breads and pastas break down quickly into sugar, and in turn lead to inflammation. In a 2010 study, researchers found that a diet high in <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2821887/">refined grains led to a greater concentration of a certain inflammation marker</a> in the blood, while a diet high in <em>whole</em> grains resulted in a lower concentration of two different inflammation markers. White breads are a telling example of inflammatory foods, says Daniluk. "They've been refined in a way that goes against nature, goes against what our bodies need," she says. Processing away the nutritional properties of whole grains leaves "fast-digesting carbohydrates beyond empty calories," she says, which irritate our bodies.
<a href="http://content.onlinejacc.org/article.aspx?articleid=1137827">Animal fats have been linked to inflammation</a> in a number of studies. One tracked how our beneficial <a href="http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2012/06/13/saturated-fats-change-gut-bacteria-and-may-raise-risk-for-inflammatory-bowel-disease/">gut bacteria change after eating saturated fats</a> and found that "as the balance of species shift, it can trigger an immune response that results in inflammation and tissue damage," Scientific American reported. Saturated fats also contain a compound the body uses to <em>create</em> inflammation naturally called <a href="http://health.usnews.com/health-news/diet-fitness/articles/2009/11/02/building-a-diet-that-lowers-inflammation">arachidonic acid</a>, according to U.S. News. Diets lower in this molecule have anti-inflammatory effects and have been shown to <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12548439">improve symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis patients</a>. The way you cook your meat could also be a factor, says Daniluk. Grilling it on high can result in <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/07/02/how.make.grilling.safe/index.html">inflammatory carcinogens</a>, and a sugary marinade won't do you any favors, either. Keep in mind, the experts say, that some saturated fat is needed. Just be sure to consume in moderation.
Alcohol is naturally irritating to our insides, says Daniluk, but shouldn't cause lasting problems unless you overdo it. With a few too many drinks, however, <a href="http://health.usnews.com/health-news/diet-fitness/articles/2009/11/02/building-a-diet-that-lowers-inflammation">bacteria can more easily pass through the intestinal lining</a>, leading to irritation and inflammation, according to U.S. News. "It's immediate sugar when it's metabolized," says Black, "so you have to weigh the benefits and drawbacks." Small amounts of alcohol have been linked to lower risk of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/30/drinking-benefits_n_1233544.html">heart disease</a> and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/19/alcohol-alzheimers-risk_n_931698.html">Alzheimer's</a>, for example, "but if you get past a certain threshold, you stop getting the positive effect," she says.
Omega-6 Fatty Acids
The average American gets more omega-6 fatty acids via diet than omega-3s, but this <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/08/foods-fight-inflammation-diet_n_2079331.html#slide=1721411">imbalance can lead to inflammation</a>, according to U.S. News. "We're thirsty for omega 3s, which can turn off the inflammatory messengers," says Daniluk. To quench that thirst, cut back on omega-6 heavy seeds and vegetable oils and add more fatty fish and walnuts.
While moderate intake of low-fat dairy can actually <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303612804577531092453590070.html">guard <em>against</em> inflammation</a>, whole milk or even two-percent is still high in saturated fat and could mean trouble. But a <a href="http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/tech/science/2009-08-30-lactose-intolerance_N.htm">majority of adults have at least some difficulty digesting milk</a>, so overdoing it could trigger a <em>true</em> inflammatory reaction, says Black.
There's some research in animals to suggest that the preservative and flavor enhancer <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18178378">monosodium glutamate can create inflammation</a>. While few of MSG's effects are understood in much depth, it may be best to avoid, the experts say. "We probably don't really understand the mechanism behind MSG [causing inflammation]," says Black, "but it's not a chemical your body is used to. It's not like it's a part of broccoli."
Even without a diagnosis of celiac disease, a number of people <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2013/02/gluten_free_diet_distinguishing_celiac_disease_wheat_allergy_and_gluten.html">report feeling better after eliminating gluten</a> from their diet. In fact, a full <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/06/gluten-free-diet_n_2818954.html">30 percent of American adults are now actively avoiding gluten</a>. Science is still largely inconclusive on what's been called "gluten intolerance," but Daniluk thinks sensitivity that leads to bloating or digestion changes could be an inflammatory response to gluten.