Is gluten really the culprit, or is it worth suspecting something else?

Updated: Oct 26, 2021

It has been widely known for some years that gluten has a number of adverse health effects, which is why many have been banished from their diet. The question is, do we really need to avoid gluten, and if so, how do we do it? What problems does gluten actually cause, what is being called the cause of all evil? When is it worth suspecting gluten sensitivity at all?

First, it is worth clarifying that nutrition-related complaints can be caused by a variety of diseases that cause different levels of problems. One is gluten sensitivity, also known as celiac disease, which is actually an autoimmune disease, often with a hereditary background. It can be a source of a wide variety of symptoms: in addition to intestinal complaints, it can lead to skin problems and other more serious abnormalities, but at least it can be associated with, for example, certain disorders of the hormonal system and blood sugar levels. However, due to the severe symptoms that occur, this intolerance is usually easily medically identifiable.

Less known diseases are wheat allergy or certain types of susceptibility (eg oats, corn). These may, of course, vary in nature, both in terms of their severity and the syndromes that occur.

Although many are affected by these types of problems, most of them only end up buying gluten-free products at the store. They do not actually investigate what is behind the complaints, or they turn to a specialist very rarely or only in serious cases. This can be a problem because gluten-free products are unfortunately not a solution for everyone. My experience is that even often, in the case of a problem that is ruled out or just confirmed by a doctor, not all the details are always clear because it is a much more complex phenomenon.

What a nutritionist can help within this case is clarifying the knowledge of what, how, and how to consume, replenish, and how to solve this changed health situation wisely and economically at the same time. However, it is worth noting that usually approx. 2-3 years of hard work (detoxification, regulation of the intestinal flora, development of an optimal diet) is behind the achievement of improved blood test and health status. So much depends on early and correct diagnosis, proper treatment, and, of course, determination.

Symptoms to look out for

Regular bloating, chronic diarrhea and fatigue, weight loss, frequent sore throat or other inflammations, thyroid problems, asthma, chronic iron deficiency, behavioral changes, and learning difficulties, especially in children. Obviously, these symptoms do not necessarily indicate gluten sensitivity, but if any or all of these are present at the same time, it is advisable to have a blood test and an intolerance test to rule out a possible gluten-related problem.

Cereals and gluten

Gluten is found in all types of wheat, including couscous and bulgur, but it is also found in rye, barley and, of course, Graham flour. If oats are guaranteed to be gluten-free, they can be consumed in small amounts, but this is not recommended for severe celiac disease either. As a nutrition consultant, I also often perform food intolerance and vitamin deficiency tests with the help of a lab, and my experience is that with these tests, I get a much more detailed picture of a particular type of food sensitivity than with “classic” blood results. Analyzing several tests, I have observed that in many cases, corn can also be a problem. This is also worth keeping in mind because this cereal is also found in many products, often in genetically modified form, and gluten-free formulations are often corn-based.

The problem of high carbohydrate content

It is also a big problem that there are few really good gluten-free products on the market. The problem is actually caused by the fact that these preparations are usually too sugared, and doughs, bread and flours are often e.g. white rice or corn-based. Unfortunately, they raise blood sugar levels and are also low in fiber. So, we also have to be very careful with gluten-free products, and we have to look at them. The safest choices are brown, red, or black rice. (Red rice, by the way, is my favorite cholesterol settler.) Those with co-occurrence of each type of diabetes and celiac disease need to pay particular attention to choosing the right food. As much as possible, try to get goods with a low glycemic index in our basket. One of my guests, for example, has been well versed in consuming almond flour and similar seed-based flours. However, until we get this far with the rounds to me, we are actually walking a journey of discovery together that requires experimental spirit and great perseverance. This, in turn, pays off twice, as the patient is enriched with a number of delicious recipes in addition to health.

The relationship of gluten to inflammatory diseases

The presence of inflammation in the body is always an important indicator, so in this case, it may be useful to perform a food intolerance test. For example, if you have thyroid disease, you may want to suspect gluten or other food sensitivities. Fortunately, gluten isn’t always the culprit, but it’s advisable to look at it so we know what to exclude from our diet for healing. It is important that this analysis is professional and accurate, because going over to the other side of the horse, we may eliminate too many things from our diet, causing a nutrient deficiency, which can be a source of even greater trouble. Therefore, as a specialist, I always focus on accurate diagnosis and thorough discussion and planning of possible alternatives.

Intolerance and cross-allergy

If you are sensitive to gluten, you should also pay attention to milk protein and the various possible cross-allergens. If the complaints go away by following a simple, gluten-free diet (e.g. rice, buckwheat, quinoa, millet), it is a great pleasure. If not, it is advisable to ask for an alternative test because there may be some cross-reaction in the background. (e.g. eggs, potatoes, soy, yeast). Basically, I don't like to experiment in the absence of an accurate diagnosis, I rather believe in precise tests and the development of a strategy and solution plan based on the results. The point is, if the complaint doesn’t go away, it’s definitely worth looking into the source of the trouble.

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I am Bernadett Köteles-Degrendele, the developer of the Begonia Wellness Method and a nutrition therapist and wellness coach known as Bernadett Begonia. In my work, I represent naturalness and see food as one of the foundations of maintaining health and healing. For the past 15 years, I have attended various trainings on wellness, nutrition and coaching. In my work, I also build on Eastern and Western methods, including traditional Chinese medicine and the detection of food intolerances and allergies. Bernadett can be contacted at

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