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How Do You Manage Gluten Intolerance
Updated on September 21, 2023
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Diet / Weight Loss
How Do You Manage Gluten Intolerance

There are many ways you can manage gluten intolerance. Some examples are:

  • Avoiding gluten products altogether (which includes varieties of breads, pastas, etc.)
  • Being mindful of nutritional information and the ingredients in your food
  • Avoiding processed foods

It’s also important to ensure you’re eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods and drinking lots of fluids. You want to be healthy all around and fortify your body in case you do accidentally consume gluten. A healthier system may help soothe your system faster in case of accidents.

What is Gluten Intolerance?

Gluten intolerance, also known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity, is a condition that can cause your body to respond negatively when eating gluten.

It can lead to typical allergic reactions such as:

  • Hives
  • Runny nose
  • Headaches
  • Asthma attacks
  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea

It has similar symptoms to other gluten-related disorders like Celiac disease and wheat allergy. Additionally, there’s a link between gluten sensitivity and IBS since both are fairly common.

Having gluten intolerance usually does not lead to other conditions or complications. However, there could be long-term challenges when it comes to maintaining your diet.1

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Is IBS and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity the Same?

These conditions are so similar that doctors can sometimes have difficulties differentiating them.

Both IBS and gluten sensitivity can result in:

  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal pain

Some studies have proposed that non-celiac gluten sensitivity may not be a separate condition but a type of IBS.

Some evidence also reveals that reducing gluten consumption can help relieve symptoms in some people with IBS, but this has not been conclusively proven.3

How Do People Get Gluten Intolerance and IBS?

Both gluten intolerance and IBS are fairly common illnesses. However, scientists are still unsure about their underlying causes.4 Studies show that up to 13% of people could be affected by non-Celiac gluten sensitivity, while up to 15% of people could be affected by IBS.1,2 

There are some theories about what could cause one or both of these conditions. One is visceral hypersensitivity, where an abnormality in the gut causes it to become overly sensitive to specific triggers, like eating gluten.

Research into how and why this develops is still ongoing, but some evidence shows it could be due to certain factors like gut microbiome health, fatigue, or depression.4,5

What are the Common Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance?

The most common symptoms of gluten sensitivity are:1

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Brain fog

These symptoms are triggered when you eat foods with gluten, which is commonly found in some grains like wheat and barley.6

What are the Common Symptoms of IBS?

IBS usually presents itself through symptoms like:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating

The exact foods that trigger IBS symptoms can vary, but fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAPs) are thought to be some of the most common triggers.2

How is Gluten Intolerance Diagnosed?

There is no test specifically for non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Instead, doctors test for other conditions with similar symptoms to rule them out.

If you think you have gluten intolerance, your doctor will test for Celiac disease and wheat allergy with blood tests and by taking a small sample of your skin.

If these tests are negative, you may be asked to avoid gluten for a few weeks to see if symptoms improve. If they do, your doctor may have you consume gluten for a little while to confirm the diagnosis.

Can Cutting Gluten Cure IBS?

Several studies show that a gluten-free diet can help reduce symptoms in roughly 50% of people with IBS.3

One study found that in roughly a third of people with IBS who described themselves as having gluten intolerance, their symptoms could be caused or worsened by gluten.7

Some evidence also shows that adding gluten to a low-FODMAP diet can worsen IBS symptoms.8 However, this link is still not well-established.

For example, one study examined that people lost their IBS symptoms after stopping gluten consumption.

After the researchers reintroduced gluten into their diets, many patients reported that gastrointestinal symptoms did not return. Some still reported traces of neurological effects of gluten ingestion, like brain fog or fatigue.

Note that the effects of a gluten-free diet on IBS can be challenging to study. This is because gluten-free diets also tend to be low-FODMAP diets, which doctors will usually prescribe if you are dealing with IBS.

What Foods Should be Avoided or Included in a Gluten-Sensitive Diet?

Diet is an important way to manage both non-Celiac gluten sensitivity and IBS.

Trigger foods for IBS and Gluten Intolerance

If you have IBS, you should avoid trigger foods high in FODMAPs. Some common examples of these include:9

  • Certain fruits like apples, pears, plums, blackberries, cherries, and watermelon
  • Certain vegetables like artichoke, asparagus, garlic, onions, mushrooms, and green peas
  • Fruit juices or canned fruit
  • Dairy products
  • Products containing wheat or rye
  • Foods with honey or high-fructose corn syrup
  • Cashews and pistachios
  • Candies with sweeteners like sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol

If you have gluten sensitivity, you should avoid foods with gluten, a protein found in certain grains like wheat, rye, and barley.

Foods that usually contain gluten include:

  • Bread, cakes, and pastries
  • Beer 
  • French fries
  • Pasta
  • Hot dogs and processed meat products
  • Salad dressings
  • Some sauces, like soy sauce
  • Some soups or soup mixes

Many of these products have gluten-free alternatives that are safe for your diet. Be sure to look for proper labels when considering which foods to eat.10

Gluten-Free Foods to Include in Your Diet

There is still no solid evidence showing that people with IBS can benefit significantly from a gluten-free diet. However, foods that are low in FODMAPs—which include gluten free breads—can help reduce symptoms. Other low-FODMAP foods include:11

  • Fruits like grapes, kiwis, cantaloupes, oranges, and pineapples
  • Vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, eggplants, and green beans
  • Eggs
  • Tofu
  • Oats
  • Dark chocolate
  • Maple syrup
  • Macadamias, peanuts, and walnuts

Common Questions About Gluten Intolerance and IBS

Listed below are some commonly asked questions about gluten Intolerance and IBS.

Can IBS be Cured?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for IBS. However, a proper diet can help you control the symptoms of IBS.14

Is Milk Bad for IBS?

Milk and other dairy products can contain high amounts of FODMAPs. This means that milk can be bad for people with IBS, as it can trigger IBS symptoms.9

Is Rice Good for IBS?

Rice is a low FODMAP food, so it’s not likely to trigger symptoms of IBS.15

Can Gluten Intolerance Cause Bowel Problems?

Many of the common symptoms of gluten intolerance are gastrointestinal. If you have gluten intolerance and you consume gluten, it can result in bowel problems like diarrhea or constipation.2

How Do I Clear My Gut of Gluten?

There is no easy way to clear gluten from your gut after eating it.

If you are gluten intolerant and accidentally consume gluten, the best thing to do is drink plenty of water and eat small meals until symptoms resolve. You can also try drinking teas like peppermint tea to help combat an upset stomach.12

Some products like digestive enzymes claim to be able to break down gluten that you have accidentally consumed in the stomach before it reaches your intestines, where it will result in symptoms. However, there is still no evidence that shows these treatments are effective.16,17

There are also claims that activated charcoal can be used if you consume gluten, but there is also no evidence that shows this is an effective treatment.18

Key Takeaways

Gluten intolerance can cause your body to respond negatively when eating gluten. On the other hand, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition where eating certain types of foods can trigger symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain, or diarrhea.

Gluten intolerance or IBS isn’t a serious illness. However, its symptoms can be difficult to manage. Consult your doctor to confirm a diagnosis or receive proper advice on lifestyle changes to accommodate your condition.

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Updated on September 21, 2023
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18 sources cited
Updated on September 21, 2023
  1. Akhondi, A., and Ross, A.B. “Gluten-Associated Medical Problems.” StatPearls, 2022.
  2. Patel, N., and Shackelford, K. “Irritable Bowel Syndrome.” StatPearls, 2022.
  3. Makharia et al. “The Overlap between Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity: A Clinical Dilemma.” Nutrients, 2015.
  4. Soares, R.L.S. “Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Food Intolerance and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity. A New Clinical Challenge.” Arquivos de Gastroenterologia, 2018.
  5. Tian et al. “Global research progress of visceral hypersensitivity and irritable bowel syndrome: bibliometrics and visualized analysis.” Frontiers in Pharmacology, 2023.
  6. Corall et al. “Brain fog and non-coeliac gluten sensitivity: Proof of concept brain MRI pilot study.” PLOS One, 2020.
  7. Volta et al. “Dietary Triggers in Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Is There a Role for Gluten?” Journal of Gastroenterology and Motility, 2016.
  8. Biesiekierski et al. “No Effects of Gluten in Patients With Self-Reported Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity After Dietary Reduction of Fermentable, Poorly Absorbed, Short-Chain Carbohydrates.” Gastroenterology, 2013.
  9. Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for Irritable Bowel Syndrome.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 2017.
  10. Gluten-free diet.” Mayo Clinic, 2021.
  11. Low FODMAP Diet.” Cleveland Clinic, 2022.
  12. Gluten intolerance.” Cleveland Clinic, 2022.
  13. Diagnosing Celiac Disease & Gluten Sensitivity.” NYU Langone Health.
  14. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).” NHS, 2021.
  15. Kubala, J. “What to know about the low FODMAP diet.” MedicalNewsToday, 2023.
  16. Ido et al. “Combination of Gluten-Digesting Enzymes Improved Symptoms of Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity: A Randomized Single-blind, Placebo-controlled Crossover Study.” Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology, 2018.
  17. Kõiv, V., and Tenson, T. “Gluten-degrading bacteria: availability and applications.” Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, 2021.
  18. Silberman et al. “Activated Charcoal.” StatPearls, 2023.
Will Hunter
Will Hunter
Content Contributor
Will is a content writer for KnowYourDNA. He received his B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Will has 7 years of experience writing health-related content, with an emphasis on nutrition, alternative medicine, and longevity.
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