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Just how much gluten does it take to damage the gut lining in Coeliac Disease?

Those of you with Coeliac Disease will already know you must adhere to a very strict gluten free diet at all costs. When gluten is ingested, this will damage your gut lining and render you unable to absorb vitamins and minerals vital to health and wellbeing. But just how much gluten can trigger an immune inflammatory response and cause damage to your gut lining? The answer: very little!

Studies into this area have had mixed results, however some experts agree the maximum safe amount of gluten Coeliacs can ingest is about 20ppm, which is the equivalent of between 10-20mg/day (about 1/100th of a slice of bread).

The image below shows what this looks like to the naked eye (provided by GlutenFreeWatchDog.org). It is an incredibly small amount of crumbs as you can see.


In the UK, legislation introduced in 2012 states that all packaging making the claim ‘gluten free’ must meet the threshold of 20ppm or less. However companies don’t actually have to declare exactly how much gluten is in gluten-free food – they just have to ensure it’s under 20ppm. So not all foods labelled gluten free are COMPLETLY void of gluten. Yes, different Coeliacs will have different thresholds and reactions, however I must stress gut damage can still occur despite the absence of symptoms.

Vicki Montague, who blogs at the Free From Fairy, reached out to well known gluten free brands; Genius, Nairns, Schar, Honeybuns and Celia. They said that their products averaged at under 5ppm, which is incredibly reassuring. However, other companies did not respond to her request.

It may be in your best interests to not rely on processed gluten free products or ready meals to make up the bulk of your diet, even though they are labelled as gluten free, solely based on the fact that they can still have up to 20ppm of gluten present. If you rely heavily on processed gluten free foods in your diet, and are still getting symptoms, this could well be one of the reasons why, though this would need investigated. If you have any major concerns about some of your absolute favourite products, you can always get in touch directly with the supplier - whether they’ll be very forthcoming or not is another story.

It is important to include a large amount of naturally gluten free foods into your diet such as unprocessed lean meats and fish. Peas, beans and pulses and unprocessed dairy. And ofcourse fresh fruit and vegetables. They are guaranteed to be 100% gluten free, and won’t cause any un-necessary stress.

What is worth keeping in mind though is the cells in the intestinal wall regenerate every 72 hours, so long as they are not being exposed to gluten on a constant basis.

Thanks for reading,


The Coeliac Nutritionist NI

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