Gluten refers to proteins that are found in grain products, specifically wheat, rye, and barley. While some with an allergy to gluten (celiac disease) have a problem with oats, according to according to the Celiac Sprue Association, it is often because the oats are processed alongside other grains. When testing for a gluten allergy, oats should be tested as well. Many self-test because blood tests can be inconclusive, or doctors don't recognize the symptoms, which include intestinal distress and often pain. Self-testing for a gluten allergy is a simple process, but it is not easy to abstain from gluten.
Write down everything you eat for one week, without omitting anything from your usual diet. After you write down what you eat, go back to your journal one or two hours later and write down any symptoms you may be experiencing, from headaches to stomach pain to itching. Any and all symptoms should be recorded.
Familiarize yourself during this week with the items you must begin eliminating from your diet. You can consume nothing made with wheat, rye, barley, bulgur, couscous, dinkle or spelt, durham, semolina, einkorn, emmer, farina, kamut, gluten, malt, matzo, mir, oats (may be added back in later), seitan and triticale. Anything made with these products must be avoided, which means you must get in the habit of reading labels if you eat processed foods. You will need to eliminate most pastas unless they're made with corn or rice four, breads, cereals, gravies, soups, processed sandwich meats and baked goods. Most processed or frozen meats also have been injected with a solution that contains wheat. While potatoes are gluten free, french fries are often coated with a wheat solution. The point is you must read labels. To be safe, stick with fresh produce and meat while you are testing for a gluten allergy, and avoid all processed foods. For a list of flours and grains, and whether they are acceptable on a gluten free diet or not, see the resource section.
Start week two with eliminating all gluten products from your diet. This will be the toughest part of your self-test, but it is imperative. While you may feel there is nothing left to eat, there are many foods available. All fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and fish can be eaten. If you miss french fries, you can make your own at home. Instead of pasta, serve your meals with potato or rice dishes. As you eliminate these foods, continue to write down everything you eat, and any symptoms you experience. You must also make note of any symptoms that have disappeared.
Continue eating gluten-free for three more weeks, giving you a total of four weeks that you have eliminated it completely from your diet. During this time, continue with your food journal and symptoms list. If you have found that your symptoms that were troubling you before have disappeared, and you no longer are experiencing the problem that drove you to test for a gluten allergy, then you can stop here, knowing that you do have an allergy or "sensitivity" to gluten. The hardest adjustment at this point is the realization that you can no longer have any gluten products in your diet, ever. According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, the only treatment for a gluten allergy is the avoidance and elimination of gluten.
Test to see if you have a problem with oats by reintroducing them into your diet. Start by having 1/2 cup of oatmeal in the morning, but no other oat products throughout the day. When purchasing oats, try to find a container with a label that states they were not processed in the same plant as wheat products. As the food industry is becoming more aware of gluten allergies, many labels are becoming very specific about the gluten content, especially oats. If you find any symptoms returning after reintroducing oats into your diet, discontinue them and eliminate them permanently.
While there are many "gluten free" breads and cereals on the market, you should avoid them for the four weeks that you are doing your self-test.
Do not cheat and have a "little" gluten while performing the self-test or you will not have accurate results. The only way to know for sure if you have a gluten allergy is to eliminate gluten 100 percent from your diet.