Going gluten-free has been all the rage over the last few years and many runners have felt the benefit of going gluten-free. Some evidence (read the journal article here) suggests that those who are allergic or sensitive to gluten can benefit from going gluten-free.

However it is a complex subject, "there is a fundamental difference between an allergy and an intolerance," says ASICS FrontRunner, Megan Lagerwey (aka The Good Gut Guru). 

So many people use these two words very loosely, let's have a look at just what sets them apart, and, in which category you might potentially fall:


Firstly, let us look at what gluten is. According to Megan, gluten is a family of proteins found in grains like wheat, rye, spelt and barley. "It is very hard to tell that you have an intolerance," Megan says.

"There is currently no accurate test that can be used to test for a gluten intolerance. If you're sensitive to gluten, you kind of just feel 'off' when eating it, but that does not mean you are allergic." 

This makes food intolerances far more common than food allergies, affecting as many as 20% of adults. "Although they aren’t life-threatening, food intolerances can impact your quality of life and your performance as a runner in a big way."

According to Megan, the gold standard for diagnosing food intolerances is a guided exclusion diet, followed by a controlled reintroduction. 

Some of the most common reported food intolerances are caused by lactose (milk sugars), wheat and gluten.

Megan's Gluten-free biscotti

"Food allergies can create a specific immediate antigen-antibody response. This means that certain food molecules are perceived by the body to be invaders and the body responds by producing antibodies (also known as immunoglobulins) to fight the intruders," Megan says.

Allergies you can accurately test for. 

These 'IgE antibodies' stimulate certain cells to release histamine, an inflammatory compound. "In some cases, an allergic reaction can be life-threatening, like the anaphylactic choking reaction to eating peanuts in people allergic to peanuts," she says.

"Other food allergy symptoms can include swelling of the eyes and lips. Technically speaking, it is possible to have an allergy to any food." 

For more on various common food allergies and intolerances, read Megan's blog, here. "The gold standard for diagnosing food intolerances is a guided exclusion diet, followed by a controlled reintroduction, Megan says. "Despite the many marketing claims out there, there is no valid test for a food intolerance.

Featured photo by Mae Mu on Unsplash