Should Histamine Intolerance sufferers go gluten free?

Don’t panic about gluten!

Some people believe that if you suffer from histamine intolerance you should go gluten free.

These days, there is a fashion for avoiding gluten-containing foods because ‘gluten free’ is perceived as ‘healthier’. Gluten-containing foods include wheat, barley, rye, triticale, kamut and spelt.

Gluten is a natural plant protein that helps bread rise and gives bread, cakes, pastry, pasta, noodles, and similar foods their elasticity and texture.

The truth is, gluten is only a problem for people who are non-celiac gluten sensitive (NCGS), or who have celiac disease – that is, approximately 1% of the population. (Note: NCGS is a condition that is distinct from celiac disease.)

Foods that happen to contain gluten may also be a problem for people who are sensitive to those particular foods. For example, you may not be celiac or NCGS, but you might have been diagnosed as being sensitive to wheat, for reasons other than its gluten content. People with histamine intolerance should avoid wheat germ, in any case.

If you have celiac disease or NCGS then it is vital to avoid gluten because it can cause intestinal permeability, which is also known as ‘leaky gut’. This can in turn lead to DAO insufficiency and thus to histamine intolerance. Gluten intolerance is also linked with autoimmune  diseases.

However if you are, like the vast majority of the population, perfectly capable of digesting gluten without any problems, gluten-containing foods are actually good for you. They are highly nutritious – packed with vitamins, minerals and beneficial fiber.

“Studies show that whole grain foods, as part of a healthy diet, may help lower risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer. A 2005 report from the American Dietetic Association warned that gluten free products tend to be low in a wide range of important nutrients, including B vitamins, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and fiber. There’s also little point in eliminating just some gluten. For people who are sensitive, even trace amounts can cause damage to the small intestines. So an almost gluten-free diet isn’t going to help if you have a problem.” [Source: WebMD]

In a normal, healthy person gluten will not cause a leaky gut. And the odds are, you are one of the 99% who can digest gluten.

If you think you really might be celiac or have NCGS, ask your doctor for a test. The Celiac Disease Foundation states that there are several blood tests available that screen for celiac disease antibodies. “If test results suggest celiac disease, your physician will recommend a biopsy of your small intestine to confirm the diagnosis.”

Even if your celiac test comes up negative, you could try avoiding all gluten for at least 30 days to see if that makes your health improve. If you do feel better, this might indicate that you have NCGS.

If you really are gluten intolerant you’d have to cut out all gluten, down to the tiniest particle. An ‘almost-gluten-free’ diet will not help at all.

Simply avoiding gluten because you think it’s ‘bad’ for you means cutting a lot of nutritious foods from your diet. You can, of course, do so if you wish, but-

  • it’s more than likely there will be no benefit in it
  • you’d have to cut out a wide range of foods, because if you check the ingredients on labels, there are traces of gluten in most pre-prepared foods
  • commercially available gluten free foods often contain higher amounts of saturated fats, refined sugars and other undesirable ingredients
  • prepared gluten free foods are usually more expensive

The book “Is Food Making You Sick?” contains a large number of gluten free, low histamine recipes. Is Food Making You Sick?

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