Allergies & Intolerances


Healthy foods can trigger allergies and intolerances in people who are genetically predisposed to developing these reactions and are regularly exposed to the environmental triggers that drive these allergies and intolerances.

It is important to understand the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance or sensitivity. In short:

Food allergy is an immunological reaction to food proteins.

Food intolerance or sensitivity is a pharmacological reaction (like the side effects of a drug) to the chemicals in foods.

In Australia, there are a number of common food allergies including; casein (protein) in milk, soy, egg, peanut, fish and more recently gluten; the protein in wheat, rye and barley. Food intolerances and sensitivities arise more commonly from added preservatives and chemicals in food, however other healthy components of food have been identified as creating intolerances in people including FODMAP’s (explained below) and gluten.

  • Gluten
  • FODMAP's

So when is gluten consumption bad for you?

Gluten consumption is bad for you when:

-          you have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease and potentially other auto-immune diseases,

-          suffer from Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, or

-          you have been diagnosed with diseases of the nervous system such as autism and schizophrenia.

Celiac disease is triggered by consumption of the protein called gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye.

Left untreated, people with celiac disease can develop further complications such as other autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, thyroid disease and cancer.

The work of Dr Alessio Fasano has helped shed light into the mechanism of how Celiac disease is triggered. Dr Fasano explains that the intestine’s function is to act as a barrier to keep the bad guys, enemies, bacteria, toxins out from the rest of the body and ensure that complex molecules like proteins and carbohydrates are broken down into single blocks of amino acids and sugars and are absorbed for nutrition and fuel. 

Dr Fasano discovered that our bodies produce a molecule called Zonulin that acts as the facilitator in the intestinal lining, opening the door to the rest of the body once the proteins and carbohydrates have been properly broken down.

Unfortunately, in some people, including those with Celiac Disease, Zonulin is produced in excess and that door is open for a much longer period of time such that whole proteins molecules like gluten and its major component gliadin, penetrate through. In people with a weakened immune system, these undigested intruders then trigger antibodies called Anti-gliadins that set off an auto-immune response where the body attacks the villi on the small intestinal lining causing inflammation.  

Dr Fasano sets out the three variables that need to exist for this to happen:

  • A genetic predisposition that leads to auto-immune disease;
  • Environmental triggers that aggravate the condition including medications, intake of gluten (and possibly other grains), viral and bacterial infections, intake of antibiotics; and 
  • Increased gut permeability (also referred to as leaky gut) as a result of increased Zonulin for a prolonged time and vitamin D deficiency.

Further Reading:

Gluten, Auto-Immunity and Leaky Gut

Going on a gluten-free diet only has its own problems if you suffer from Celiac Disease and other auto-immune diseases. Many gluten-free products are packed with harmful foods such as sugars, industrial oils and unfermented soy products. Furthermore, other gluten-free grains may mimic the auto-immune defences triggered to eating gluten such as corn and oats.

A gluten-free lifestyle is best accomplished by following the ‘Specific Carbohydrate Diet’ coined by Dr Ellaine Gottschall. It is a diet intended mainly for Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, diverticulitis, cystic fibrosis and chronic diarrhoea. The diet eliminates complex carbohydrates including starches, grains, pasta, legumes and breads and focuses on the inclusion of meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, nuts and low-sugar fruits.

Gluten Sensitivity was also raised as an issue by Dr Fasano. He described the condition, as a Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity in that the patient did not display the same level of leaky gut symptoms as Celiac patients.

Recent studies in Australia have challenged the concept of Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity and sought to identify the actual culprits for the abdominal symptoms experienced by people suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome. More information under FODMAP’s below.

Gut and Psychology Syndrome is a description coined together by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride in 2004 after working with hundreds of children and adults with neurological and psychiatric conditions, such as autism spectrum disorders, ADD/ ADHD, schizophrenia, dyslexia, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other neurological and psychiatric problems. Dr Campbell-McBride designed a diet to specifically deal with these disorders.

Serene Nature House recommends that you consult with GAPS Australia if you or a member of your family is suffering from a neurological or psychiatric condition.

Given the recent link of diet to auto-immune disease, GAPS has also been extended to include Gut and Physiology Syndrome. GAPS is explained as a condition, which establishes a connection between the functions of the digestive system, the brain (nervous system) and the immune system.

It is important however not to demonise gluten, grains and other starchy vegetables when you are not suffering from abdominal symptoms, auto-immune disease or a neurological or psychiatric condition.

You must not confuse the trigger with the cause. Gluten does not cause disease but it may trigger symptoms associated with abdominal symptoms. These symptoms may be mitigated by adopting a gluten-free diet.

Serene Nature House believes the highly processed nature of gluten grains, and the failure to properly soak and sprout them, has also seriously exacerbated the problem with reactions to gluten.

Furthermore, Dr Fasano also found that some people that were handling the digestion of gluten for many years developed a problem later in their life with the consumption of gluten, triggering genetic autoimmune disease and increased production of Zonulin. Dr Fasano has attributed the cause not to gluten but rather to compromised gut health. 

FODMAP’s are:

  • Fermentable
  • Oligosaccharides- e.g. Fructans (found in Artichokes, Garlic, Leek, Onion, Spring Onion, Shallots, Wheat, Rye, Barley), Inulin and Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) found in legumes (baked beans, kidney beans, bortolotti beans, Lentils, Chickpeas)
  • Disaccharides eg. Lactose (found in milk, ice-cream, custard, dairy desserts, condensed and evaporated milk, milk powder, yoghurt, soft unripened cheeses such as ricotta, cottage, cream, marscarpone)
  • Monosaccharides (eg. excess Fructose found in Honey, Apples, Mango, Pear, Watermelon, High Fructose Corn Syrup)
  • and
  • Polyols (eg. Sorbitol, Mannitol, Maltitol, Xylitol and Isomalt and naturally found in Apples, Apricots, Avocado, Cherries, Nectarines, Pears, Plums, Prunes, Mushrooms)

So when are FODMAP’s bad for you?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Dr Sue Shepherd, from Melbourne, developed the low FODMAP diet in 1999. She has proven, through her pioneering PhD research, that limiting dietary FODMAP’s is an effective treatment for people with symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

FODMAP’s is a description for a collection of molecules found in food, that can be poorly absorbed by some people. When the molecules are poorly absorbed in the small intestine of the digestive tract, these molecules then continue along their journey along the digestive tract, arriving at the large intestine, where they act as a food source to the bacteria that live there normally. The bacteria then digest/ferment these FODMAP’s and can cause symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

Symptoms of including abdominal bloating and distension, excess wind (flatulence), abdominal pain, nausea, changes in bowel habits (diarrhoea, constipation, or a combination of both), and other gastro-intestinal symptoms.

You can book an appointment with Dr Sue Shepherd to consult her regarding your FODMAP issues.

Professor Peter Gibson followed Dr Sue Shepherd’s work closely. Dr Gibson and his medical team operate from Monash University Melbourne.

In 2011, Dr Gibson conducted a study and concluded, after many dietary tests, that some non-celiacs experienced pain and bloating after eating foods containing gluten. The team’s report caused a sensation, It provided the first clinically validated evidence of the condition and fuelled strong growth in the gluten free sector of manufactured goods.

However, Dr Gibson, wanted to challenge his own results. He and his team decided to redesign and repeat the tests but this time with tighter controls on other elements found in gluten-rich foods, predominantly FODMAP’S.

In 2014, Dr Gibson found that abdominal symptoms experienced by people who suspected they had gluten sensitivity may be attributed not to the protein gluten but to a group of carbohydrates termed FODMAP’s.

Further Reading:

Dr Gibson's Low FODMAP Diet

It is important to note, however, that the FODMAP diet is simply a diagnostic tool, not a long-term diet. The full FODMAP diet is very restrictive and is simply there to assist people work out what intolerances they may have.

Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)

Simply put, Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth is a chronic bacterial infection of the small intestine. The infection is bacteria that normally lives in the gastrointestinal tract but have abnormally overgrown in a location not meant for so many bacteria.

The bacteria interfere with our normal digestion and absorption of food and are associated with damage to the lining or membrane of the small intestine.

Further Reading:

SIBO Symptoms

Healthy food can create unhealthy reactions in people. Many of the health problems we highlighted in this section result in a breach of the gut barrier. The key is to try and restore the gut barrier integrity.

If we know the cause of the breach, then we can simply remove the cause. If the problem is simply about bacterial overgrowth or dysbiosis, then eventually you fix the problem, either by treating the bacterial overgrowth or with probiotics. If it is a genetic defect or predisposition, then the problem is more complicated, and a more restrictive diet may need to be applied to maintain health and wellbeing.

Serene Nature House is proud to supply gluten free and dairy free options that do not contain processed sugars and oils.