Gluten intolerance affects lots of people, and I have no doubt it's bloody miserable. Coeliac disease is even more serious (and common to distressingly popular belief is not the same thing as being gluten intolerant). Over the last couple of years, I've started to notice some especially unpleasant side effects after eating bread products such as pizza, part-bake baguettes and simple bread rolls and I started to wonder if I might be developing a minor intolerance to gluten. Countless friends and family recommended trying such and such GF product or switching everything to GF in my diet, but I couldn't help feeling that although I was suffering, there was perhaps something else at play here, especially because it started out with particular products and got worse from there.
I'm glad I didn't cave into just assuming I was intolerant to something that occurs in so many foods I love, because it turns out my instincts were bang on the money. That's not to say this will work for you and definitely not to say you shouldn't speak with your GP about testing for intolerances or other problems if you're concerned, but here's a few things I learned whilst going about my own process of elimination....
Did you know that 'store-bought' prepared products- mass manufactured bread products aren't made in the same way as a loaf you might make in your own kitchen? You probably had an idea that there are additional ingredients or a different process, but here's why that's important...
Supermarket and pre-prepared bread products like a loaf of sliced bread, a take-away chain pizza, a part-bake garlic baguette or bagel from a packet needs to be produced as efficiently as possible- ie the most yield in the shortest amount of time. Since the 70's, manufacturers have also been trying to make the life span of their products longer, because customers want to their bread to stay fresher for longer. The way they made this happen was to cut down the time they allow the dough to prove (rise for) and to use more yeast to give it some lift. Doesn't sound too disastrous, does it. No chemicals or E numbers or whatever.
Here's the problem, the process of proving ferments the wheat in the dough. When you cut that process down, the wheat doesn't ferment and we humans find it much harder to digest.... (lightbulb moment). Add to that up to 3 times more yeast than a traditional loaf which can have an adverse effect and the bacterias in our bodies, and it might explain why you feel: bloated, sick, suffer with an upset stomach or stomach pain or constipation. In May of this year, I tried cutting out all pre-prepared bread products from my diet (fortunately for me, we make a lot of our own, so it wasn't too testing), and I've not had a single stomach upset since. I have still been eating the following homemade goodies: wholemeal bread and bread rolls, white bagels, pizza bases, pretzels, sourdough bread and ciabatta.
An interesting secondary issue I read about whilst trying to work out why pre-prepared bread products might be causing me these problems, is the way we approach 'good' and 'bad' foods and how we view our own diets. I read an interesting article online (which SO annoyingly I cannot find for love nor money, despite being sure I had bookmarked) from the States explaining that if you eat a large bowl of pasta with a rich sauce, you are very likely to feel bloated and uncomfortable. If you mistake this for an intolerance, and cut the offending product from your diet, you will feel better- not necessarily because you are intolerant to something but because you aren't overindulging in the same way.
Many products that contain gluten are said to be 'bad' foods- the current war on carbs that seems so popular amongst those embarking on weight loss or fitness regimes is a little frightening- bread, pasta, cake, pastry, pizza... I'm not suggesting it's cool to eat pizza 4 times per week, but a homemade pizza with homemade tomato sauce, a few thin slices of chorizo, a third of a ball of buffalo mozzarella, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes and sliced chilli comes in at approximately 600 calories. As an active adult female trying to shift a few spare kilos, I consume roughly 1600 calories a day and feel no guilt eating homemade pizza every week or two. Contrast this to a well known take-away pizza chain version (the closest equivalent: ham, peppers, mushrooms, onions, cheese & tomato sauce, thin crispy base, medium size) which comes in at 1160 calories per 8 slice pizza, It's also scary high in fat and sugar, so it's unsurprising that cutting down or cutting it out of your diet would have an effect, and I'd be surprised if it didn't have a positive one.
So I'm not going gluten free. I very much enjoyed a sandwich lunch yesterday with seeded bread, homecooked ham, mustard and salad. When I decided I fancied a hotdog this weekend, I made bagel dough and wrapped it around Quorn frankfurters (do it- it's amazing) and I will be enjoying a homemade pizza next weekend, and in my freezer is homemade ciabatta baguette, pre-sliced with garlic butter in it ready for when I next fancy garlic bread.
I choose to avoid part bake rolls, pre-pared bread, frozen or otherwise prepared pizzas, pitta breads, bagels, etc tec and when eating out, I choose to avoid dishes with bread products unless they're labelled up as made in house. And so far- no more upset stomach, no more feeling drained for 3 days because of said upset, no more stomach aches. I'm still enjoying some of those 'bad' foods (food is neither good nor bad, it is merely better for you in higher or lower quantities in my humble opinion), I'm just choosing to enjoy them in a way my body finds easier to digest. Intolerances are very real, I'm not a medical professional and therefore you should always seek advice if you're concerned about intolerances, allergies or other health problems, but before you worry yourself about something super serious, take a look at the content of what you are currently eating, write a food diary for a while and see if you can spot any commonly occurring foods with your issues- you might just be surprised at what you discover.
TL;DR The way they make factory or mass manufactured bread products might be the problem, not the gluten or wheat in said products!