Is the glucose tolerance test gluten free?

Is the glucose tolerance test gluten free?

If there’s one thing that can rattle a coeliac it’s glucose and if its gluten free, so of course there’s a worry when you need a glucose tolerance test.

For many years we’ve seen glucose listed in ingredients only to be followed by the word wheat in brackets. So, when it comes to a required medical test, what do you do?

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Can glucose be gluten free?

Coeliac Australia has published advice along with evidence to show that glucose syrup (i.e. glucose) used in food manufacturing is gluten free.

It makes sense. Glucose is the most simple sugar molecule. Whereas gluten is a much larger, more complex protein. Structurally these two compounds are completely different, and if any protein molecules were in glucose… Well, it would no longer be glucose!

What is the glucose tolerance test?

The glucose tolerance test is used, often during pregnancy, to assess your body’s ability to process glucose. This in turn can help your clinician determine if you have Type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes, a type of diabetes that occurs in pregnancy.

What is involved in the glucose tolerance test?

In Australia for the test you need three separate blood collections, spaced out at specified intervals.

When you arrive the first sample of blood is taken. This is your baseline sample, before you have any glucose.

Then you have the drink which contains a known amount of glucose (this is important as its part of the calculations). In this case it’s 75g of glucose in a 300mL drink, which is 25g of sugar per 100mL.

For comparison, Coca Cola is 10.6g per 100mL and orange juice is around 8.2g per 100mL. So it’s likely a good 2.5x more sugary than anything you’ve had before.

The glucose test bottle and the gluten free label

When I took the test I had a good look at the bottle and took a few photos. They’ve clearly realised people are cautious about what ingredients are inside. The glucose drink is labelled halal, kosher and gluten free. I’m not sure glucose could ever not be halal or kosher but that’s not my specialty so I’ll leave it at that.

It should be noted that the glucose tolerance test drink does contain sulphites.

The label of the bottle for the glucose tolerance test. It lists filtered water, glucose (halal, Kosher, gluten free) Food acid (330), preservative (211, 202).
Sooo much sugar.

My experience of the GTT

I thought I’d share my experience of the glucose tolerance test. This account of the glucose test doesn’t have anything to do with it being gluten free. It’s just me sharing my story.

The one thing I wish I hadn’t done before the test

I had spoken to my close friend about needing to go for the glucose test. She then began to tell me not her experience of it (she’s never been pregnant) but her friends. The stories she told were so dramatic that it actually made me feel quite stressed and apprehensive.

The worst lines were, “you get this masssssssive sugar high but you’re just sitting there not able to do anything” followed by “and then an hour later is this huge sugar crash and you’re just feeling so so awful.”

This might be true, but how would she know? Yes, she’d heard stories from two friends who had recently done the test. But, when you think of the games where you pass a message along a chain, the story changes and gets embellished. I think in this case it was grossly exaggerated.

A scene from the Simpsons where they say "purple monkey dishwasher" at the end of a message.
Perhaps the most well-known misconstrued message.

How the glucose test actually was

Thinking that I might write an article about the experience one day, I took notes during the test. I started writing this article just over four months later but my notes are not too bad!

The drink has a slight citrus taste, in the way lemonade does. It’s not awful, but last 50mL was a struggle to drink. It was given to me at room temperature, which I think didn’t help. It is recommended to have it cold from the fridge.

What I hadn’t realised, but makes sense, is that you have to drink it all in front of the pathology worker. I was given about five minutes to finish it. This was around 09:30 in the morning.

My clinic had access to an outdoor area so I was able to sit outside the clinic for most of my test. This was handy as it was making me burp quite a bit. Ten minutes before I was due for the next blood collection I went back inside.

Back inside the waiting room I was feeling more burpy and queasy. But I think bad posture and the temperature inside the clinic wasn’t helping. This was about 10:20am, and my next sample was at 10:30am.

By 11:10am I was feeling a slight headache but knowing I was nearly done was getting me through. The last sample was due to be taken at 11:30am.

At 11:15am I had a few rises in my stomach, almost feeling like I could puke. I was starting to think about what I could eat afterwards to calm my stomach.

After I was done I grabbed a coffee on the way home and cooked myself a nice lunch. Nothing sugary!

Tips if you’re getting the GTT

If you’re bringing someone with you for support or to keep you company, tell them to eat beforehand. There was another couple getting the test done with me and the partner was eating in front of her! Oh my goodness, I would have killed my husband if he did that to me!

Also bring plenty of water with you, you are allowed to drink while you are waiting.

Bring a book or something to keep yourself entertained. I played puzzles on my phone. Currently Redactle and Duotrigordle (32 Wordles at a time) are my favourites.

A screen grab of the game duotrigordle. Two entries have been made and there are green and yellow letters across the page.
It’s a bit wild at first, but it’s quite entertaining.

One final, most important tip

Check the details on your blood vials thoroughly! If the phlebotomist doesn’t offer to let you check them, politely insist. The person taking my blood samples wrote my date of birth incorrectly on my second set of samples. They nearly did it again on the third set but caught themselves.

Seeing this, I asked them to please show me the first set. I was mortified to discover not one but two separate errors. They had got my birth day and the year wrong on my samples. Had this not been detected my samples could have been rejected by the laboratory. I would have had to go through the entire tolerance test again – another three hours and another bottle of that gluten free glucose drink.

I hope you found this article helpful in your pregnancy journey, gluten free or otherwise! If you’d like to see more pregnancy related gluten free content please let me know in the comments. If it’s needed, I’ll make it!

Check out the rest of my website for general guides to gluten free life, or check out my latest product and venue reviews.

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