15 Signs You May Have a Gluten Intolerance (and what to do about it)
15 Signs You May Have a Gluten Intolerance (and what to do about it)
Who knew gluten could do so much harm? Your pasta, pizza, and cookies may make you feel wonderful in the moment, but there are some alarming side effects to know before you take another bite.
Bloating. Fatigue. Skin problems. Depression.
18 million Americans affected.
With another 39,500,000 to 474,000,000 people worldwide affected (1).
What Is Gluten?
Gluten—the Latin word for glue—is what gives elasticity to dough, creating that fluffy, finger-licking texture (2).
It’s made up of two proteins—prolamins and glutelins—and is found in the following grains:
Despite its mouthwatering characteristics, it may be something to steer clear of if you’re experiencing the symptoms mentioned below.
What Is a Gluten Intolerance?
If you asked for gluten-free pasta back in 2012, people looked at you like you were from another planet. But now, you’re the odd one out if you don’t reach for that GF cookie.
Believe it or not, gluten wasn’t always the bad guy...
It started to become more intolerable with declining environmental conditions, new wheat varieties with a higher amount of gluten, and the mere fact that people are consuming way more wheat-based products than ever before.
These are just a few theories as to why gluten sensitivities and allergies have skyrocketed in the past decade.
The Different Types of Gluten Sensitivities and Allergies
There are a handful of gluten sensitivities/allergies to be aware of:
- Celiac disease
- Non-celiac gluten sensitivity
- Wheat or grain allergy
- Gluten ataxia
- Dermatitis herpetiformis
The 15 Signs of a Gluten Intolerance
If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may have an intolerance to gluten.
1. Abdominal Pain
In a study conducted from 1990 to 1997, 215 individuals with celiac disease were analyzed before and after a gluten-free diet (5).
Out of the six gastrointestinal symptoms analyzed, abdominal pain was experienced by 80% of the individuals. And after partaking in a GF diet, that number went down drastically—to less than 1%.
2. Autoimmune Disorders
Celiac disease is a gluten allergy that’s also classified as an autoimmune disease (6).
This is because the immune system confuses gluten with a foreign invader, attacks healthy cells, and damages your small intestine.
Research shows that celiac disease increases your chances of developing other autoimmune diseases such as autoimmune thyroid disease and liver disease, type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease (7).
3. Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD and ADHD)
In a study conducted from 2004 to 2008, 67 individuals with ADHD partook in a gluten-free diet for 6 months (8).
Results showed that 10 of the patients with ADHD also had celiac disease, and living a GF lifestyle significantly improved their ADHD symptoms. This suggests that ADHD is not only a separate disorder but a symptom of various other diseases.
4.Bone and Joint Pain
Are you prone to fracturing bones?
Are your bones weakening from osteoporosis?
Is your rheumatoid arthritis becoming more painful by the day?
These may be signs of a gluten intolerance like celiac disease, and the inflammation that accompanies it.
Bloating is a common symptom for an array of gastrointestinal diseases, but it one of the top three most-reported symptoms of celiac disease—with 73% of people reporting it (5).
If you’ve ever said, “I feel stuffed!”, you’ve probably experienced bloating. Bloating usually occurs after one eats, and can be described as a swelling of the stomach due to excess gas or food sensitivities that disrupt the digestive system.
6. Brain Fog
In a survey of 125 participants with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), 48% reported brain fog as one of their symptoms, with abdominal discomfort, fatigue, headaches, and irritability ranking among the most pronounced (12).
These symptoms arose just 90 minutes after ingesting gluten and subsided within 48 hours.
7. Canker Sores
There are many reasons canker sores can come about—genetic factors, nutritional deficiencies, viral and bacterial infections, and immune or endocrine disturbances (13).
And approximately 6% of those with a gluten sensitivity mark it as one of their symptoms.
This most likely results from the inflammation that occurs in the mucous membrane lining inside the mouth.
8. Constipation, Gas, and Diarrhea
The gut—often called the body’s second brain—has a whole array of health issues when it’s bloated, constipated, and downright irritated.
These symptoms are what make up irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)—a chronic functional disorder of the GI tract that consists of abdominal pain due to a change in bowel habits—and celiac disease (14, 5).
Who would’ve guessed that the cookies you turn to when you’re sad, happy, or stressed are linked to depression?
Those with celiac disease (CD) experience depression even more—usually due to the social and financial burden it causes. In fact, out of the 519 individuals surveyed, 46% of them reported feeling somewhat, quite a bit, or very much depressed because of their disorder (15).
Studies show that a GF diet is an effective treatment strategy for mood disorders in those with gluten-related sensitivities (16).
In those who have chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, fatigue is all too common in their day-to-day lives.
In a 2019 survey of 866 people with celiac disease, tension-type headaches ranked among the most prevalent headache types (52%), followed by migraine without (32.5%) and with aura (15.4%) (19).
12. Iron Deficiency
Iron deficiency anemia (IDA)—when your body doesn’t have enough iron—is the only side effect in 40% of celiac patients (20).
Even with a gluten-free diet, some individuals with celiac disease continue to have IDA.
Conditions that affect the central nervous system—like celiac disease—can cause irritability (21). Irritability can be described as situational stress, anxiety, annoyance, or frustration.
What pronounces it even more is chronic pain, chronic fatigue, and acute or severe illnesses.
14. Rash and Skin Problems
Those with celiac disease (CD) may also lose weight—unintentionally.
In one study, two-thirds of patients reported weight loss in the 6 months before being diagnosed with CD. That number flipped to 91% of patients gaining weight (an average of 16.5 pounds) between the time of diagnosis and 6 months after starting a GF diet (5).
What to Do If You Have an Intolerance to Gluten
If you have an intolerance to gluten, all you really need to do is...avoid gluten!
To confirm whether or not you have actual gluten sensitivities like celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, doctors will usually have you do an elimination diet where you eliminate gluten altogether.
If symptoms improve on a GF diet, you most likely have non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
To determine whether or not you have celiac disease, doctors will have you do a simple blood test.
The Bottom Line
When “gluten-free” products went from nonexistent to being the hip and trendy item on grocery store shelves, many believed it was just a fad that would fizzle out like tea-toxes, weight loss pills, and gemstone water (25).
But as you may have already figured out, GF is here, and it’s here to stay.
If you’re experiencing any of the 15 symptoms above, you may have a gluten intolerance.
In most cases, you don’t need to pop a pill or go to any extremes to feel better. You simply just need to cut gluten out of your diet.
Luckily, the list of tasty (and healthy!) gluten-free foods and recipes is endless.
As always, be sure to consult a health care professional before adding anything new to your diet, supplement, or exercise regimen. NativePath and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any diseases. All NativePath material is presented for educational purposes only.
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- Gluten And Associated Medical Problems - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf
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- Dietary Triggers in Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Is There a Role for Gluten?
- Effect of a gluten-free diet on gastrointestinal symptoms in celiac disease
- Adverse effects of gluten ingestion and advantages of gluten withdrawal in nonceliac autoimmune disease
- Celiac Disease and Autoimmune Thyroid Disease
- Association of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Celiac Disease: A Brief Report
- [Bone and Joint Involvement in Celiac Disease]
- Role of Diet in Influencing Rheumatoid Arthritis Disease Activity
- Dietary gluten alters the balance of pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines in T cells of BALB/c mice
- Brain fog and non-coeliac gluten sensitivity: Proof of concept brain MRI pilot study
- Recurrent Aphthous Stomatitis: A Review
- The Overlap between Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity: A Clinical Dilemma
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- Celiac Disease and Dermatologic Manifestations: Many Skin Clue to Unfold Gluten-Sensitive Enteropathy
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