Gluten Sensitive? Then You May Need To Ditch That Starbucks!

As sufferers know it is harmful proteins in gluten that damage the small finger-like projections, called villi, that line the small intestine and enable absorption of nutrients and digestion.However now research has revealed that many other foods including gluten free grains can ‘cross react’ with gluten (found in wheat, barley and rye). Essentially your immune system thinks those non-gluten foods are the same as gluten meaning your body still produces an inflammatory reaction damaging tissues throughout the body. If you eat any of these foods your immune system triggers the very same gluten related health problems you are trying to avoid. What is interesting is that one of the top cross reactive foods is coffee – and it doesn’t mean decaf is any better since it is the protein element of coffee that causes the problems. Other culprits include milk (including milk chocolate), yeast and even rice!


To complicate matters when many people first adopt a gluten free diet they tend to over consume an array of gluten free goodies made from copious amounts of rice, amaranth, sorghum, corn, soy and other substitutes. Some of these gluten free foods can also cause a separate adverse reaction through the development of a new food sensitivity. 


Is Your Body Affected?


Not all people with CD (an auto immune condition) or gluten sensitivity will actually shown digestive symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhoea and bloating. In fact only one in eight sufferers with CD will. Yet research shows us that these gluten proteins found in wheat, rye and barley may detrimentally affect any tissue in the body and are not restricted to the intestines. The range of conditions where gluten sensitivity has been implicated is diverse. From the skin (Dermatitis Herpetiformis, Psoriatic arthritis, Alopecia areata etc.), to muscles (inflammatory myopathies), the brain (Gluten Ataxia, Schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, ADHD etc.), nerves and so on (1,2). And these additional non-gluten foods could affect you in the same way. So even if you have cut out all gluten but are eating these cross-reactive foods you may not experience good health. The problem may affect many people. A recent study in The American Journal of Gastroenterology 2010, showed that even despite following a gluten free diet 57% of those with CD did not fully heal and recover (3).



So if you don’t feel great eating that morning croissant then look too at other foods that may be affecting you. Without accurate laboratory testing there is a risk you will continue to suffer a range of health problems including in the long-term additional autoimmune conditions. Ensuring your gut heals and lowering inflammation and levels of antibodies is essential for your long-term health.


Thankfully there is a new generation of laboratory testing from Cyrex Laboratories now available in the UK. Cyrex is a well-known clinical immunology laboratory (based in Phoenix) specializing in autoimmunity. Regenerus Laboratories ( has exclusive rights to provide these tests throughout the UK and Ireland and will be launching them in November. Justin Price CEO of Regenerus Laboratories explains “These new arrays will allow doctors and practitioners to assess the treatment effectiveness, monitor disease pathogenesis and predict flares in certain autoimmune disorders, Regenerus Laboratories are extremely pleased to empower our practitioners with these new clinical practice tools. ” In fact these tests could finally improve the long-term health for thousands of people in the UK. It is estimated that around 1% of the population (around 620 000 people) in the UK have coeliac disease and many more suffer with gluten sensitivity, yet only around 20% actually know they have the disease.


Regenerus laboratories are providing the whole range of tests designed to help identify gluten sensitivity, gut health, presence of antibodies as well as pinpointing foods that may be as damaging you as much as gluten.


So What Does This Mean?


If you are gluten sensitive or have CD and have cut out gluten foods yet still not feel 100% then taking this new cross reactivity test could highlight other foods you need to avoid. This would help you to heal properly by reducing levels of antibodies, enabling better absorption and digestion of foods and lower inflammation. It may mean to have to ditch not just that morning pastry but potentially coffee too. But if you want to experience even better health and healing going gluten free may not be enough.


  1. Hadjivassiliou et. Al. (2010) Gluten sensitivity: from gut to brain. Lancet Neurol. 2010 Mar;9(3):318-30
  2. Hadjivassiliou et. Al. (2003) Gluten ataxia in perspective: epidemiology, genetic susceptibility and clinical characteristics, Brain. 2003 Mar;126(Pt 3):685-91.
  3. Rubio-Tapia et. Al. (2010) Mucosal Recovery and Mortality in Adults With Celiac Disease After Treatment With a Gluten-Free Diet Am J Gastroenterol advance online publication 9 February 2010; doi: 10.1038/ajg.2010.10.
  4. Arnson Y, Amital H, and Shoenfeld Y, Vitamin D and autoimmunity: new aetiological 
and therapeutic considerations, J of Immunology, 2005, 175: 4119-4126
  5. Alaedini A, Okamoto H, Briani, C, Wollenberg K, Shill H, Bushara K, Sander H, Green 
P, Hallett M, Latov N, Immune Cross-Reactivity in Celiac Disease: Anti-Gliadin Antibodies Bind to Neuronal Synapsin I, The Journal of Immunology, 2007, 178: 6590- 6595.
  6. Ventura A, Magazzú G, Greco L; SIGEP Study Group for Autoimmune Disorders in Celiac Disease. Duration of exposure to gluten and risk for autoimmune disorders in patients with celiac disease. Gastroenterology. 1999;117:297-303.

Written by


Christine Bailey MSc PGCE MBANT

Advance Nutrition Ltd

Nutritionist (BSc Hons)

FirstLine Therapy Practitioner

Freelance Food Writer Specialising in Health, Fitness and Nutrition

Chef and Food / Health Consultant

CAM AWARD WINNER 2012 Highly Commended For Outstanding Contribution to the Community

Member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy

Member of NHS Directory of Complementary Therapists

Member of the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC)


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