Some individuals who experience distress when eating gluten-containing foods and show improvement when following a gluten-free diet may have what is commonly referred to as gluten sensitivity (GS) instead of celiac
disease (CD). It is important to keep in mind that GS is not well understood, and it is still not clear whether other components of gluten-containing grains may be involved in causing symptoms, at least in some individuals. The symptoms seen in gluten sensitivity resemble those that are associated with celiac disease, but often with a prevalence of non-gastrointestinal symptoms.
Seven symptoms of a gluten intolerance
Many of these symptoms occur shortly after consuming gluten. However, the exact combination of symptoms can vary.
People who report gluten intolerance note the following symptoms as some of the most commonly occurring ones when they include glutenous foods in their usual diet.
1.Diarrhea and constipation – Those who report gluten intolerance say regular instances of diarrhea and constipation are a common symptom.
Occasionally having such digestive issues is normal, but experiencing them on most days can indicate an underlying condition.
2.Bloating – Another very common symptom that people report in cases of gluten intolerance is bloating. This refers to the feeling of a full stomach that is uncomfortable and lasting. It is common also to feel a buildup of gas.
3.Abdominal pain – Similarly, several different causes can lead to abdominal pain. But, again, those reporting gluten intolerance often note experiencing abdominal pain frequently and without another obvious reason.
4.Fatigue – Fatigue is another symptom that people may find hard to identify, as it can have a lot of different causes, many of which are not related to any medical condition.
5.Nausea – People with gluten intolerance may also experience nausea, particularly after consuming a meal containing gluten. Nausea can have many causes, but if it often occurs after eating gluten it can be a sign of gluten intolerance.
6.Headaches – Experiencing regular headaches is another symptom that can occur in people with gluten intolerance.
7.Other symptoms – People with gluten intolerance may experience several of these symptoms on a regular basis. These may include: joint and muscle pain, depression or anxiety, confusion, severe abdominal pain, anemia.
When to see a doctor
If you think you might suffer from a gluten- or wheat-related condition, then it’s important that you talk to your doctor before diagnosing yourself or beginning any treatment on your own. An allergist or gastro-enterologist can run tests and discuss your history with you to help reach a diagnosis. It’s especially important to see a doctor in order to rule out disease.
To diagnose celiac disease or wheat allergy, your doctor will need to conduct a blood or skin prick test. These tests are dependent on the presence of gluten or wheat in your body in order to work. This means that it’s important not to begin a gluten-free or wheat-free diet on your own before seeing a doctor. The tests may come back incorrect with a false negative, and you won’t have a proper understanding of what’s causing your symptoms. Remember, Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity has no formal diagnosis.
Living a gluten-free or wheat-free lifestyle
The treatment for celiac disease is adhering to a strict gluten-free diet. The treatment for a wheat allergy is to adhere to a strict wheat-free diet. Your lifestyle depends on the severity of your symptoms and your own tolerance level.
It’s important to check food labels when purchasing whole grains. Even gluten-free whole grains can be contaminated with gluten, especially if they are processed in the same facility as gluten-containing foods. Gluten-free whole grains: quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, buckwheat, sorghum, tapioca, millet, amaranth, teff, arrowroot, oats (make sure they’re labelled as gluten-free as they may be contaminated with gluten during processing). Grains to avoid wheat, all varieties (whole wheat, wheat berries, graham, bulgur, farro, farina, durum, kamut, bromated flour, spelt, etc.), rye, barley, triticale.
Many gluten-free and wheat-free alternatives to common foods are available such as bread, pasta, cereals, and baked goods. Be aware that wheat and gluten can be found in some surprising places. You might even spot them in ice cream, syrup, vitamins, and food supplements. Be sure to read the ingredient labels of the foods and beverages you consume to make sure they don’t contain wheat or gluten.
Your allergist, gastro-enterologist, or primary care doctor can advise you on which grains and products are safe for you to eat.
You can develop gluten intolerance suddenly, depending on genetic factors. Some people have symptoms of this condition earlier in life, while others don’t have signs of gluten intolerance until they’re older. If you suddenly have symptoms, you should see your doctor for testing and treatment.
Nevertheless, if you regularly experience some of them without an apparent cause, then you may be reacting negatively to the gluten in your diet. In this case, you should consult with a doctor or try temporarily removing gluten from your diet to see if it helps.