Gluten is a protein present in wheat, barley, and rye, which are commonly termed "gluten grains." An individual with gluten sensitivity most likely experiences uncomfortable symptoms after eating foods such as cereals, bread, pasta, sauces, malt-based foods, canned soups, and even certain kinds of chocolates.
Becoming gluten-free is pretty simple. The different gluten-free options provided by various meal delivery services are great for those who are confused about how to start a gluten-free diet. Check food labels if you are shopping, even when using an online grocery shopping site.
But how does an individual know whether they are gluten intolerant? Understanding your symptoms is the key!
Three types of gluten tolerance have been established (1). They are :
- Celiac or coeliac disease: Auto-immune disease and most severe form of gluten intolerance
- Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS): Symptoms exhibited in people without celiac disease
- Wheat allergy: Allergic reaction caused by eating wheat products or foods containing wheat proteins or by inhaling wheat flour
An individual who does not have Celiac disease can exhibit symptoms of gluten intolerance. Here are 10 of the most common signs of gluten intolerance.
Bloating occurs when an individual experiences a tight and full feeling in the abdomen due to gas. This is an extremely common symptom of gluten intolerance.
Though the exact cause is unclear, wheat and rye are high in gluten, and regular consumption of such high-gluten foods can make the body more sensitive and create digestive issues.
2. Abdominal Pain
An individual experiencing frequent stomach pain, especially after eating foods with gluten, should get checked for gluten intolerance, celiac disease, or a wheat allergy.
Research shows that wheat or foods containing gluten can trigger inflammation and pain in patients with celiac disease. Abdominal pain is also commonly seen in adults and children who may be gluten intolerant (2).
3. Diarrhea and Constipation
Constipation or loose stools can also be good indicators of gluten insensitivity, specifically celiac disease.
When the body does not digest gluten-based foods well, the result is diarrhea with pale and foul-smelling feces, sometimes followed by rapid weight loss.
Constipation can commonly occur in many individuals, but frequent constipation without any underlying cause may point to non-celiac gluten intolerance with a positive response to a gluten-free diet.
Headaches are a common symptom of fever, common colds, eye strain, etc. But if you experience frequent headaches and migraine attacks without any other medical conditions, a doctor may suspect gluten intolerance as a likely cause.
Inflammatory responses to gluten intake may be a factor in inducing headaches. Scientific studies show that headaches or migraines in adults and children may be caused by gluten intolerance, specifically celiac disease (3).
Fatigue is a common symptom in many severe medical conditions, especially autoimmune disorders. Since celiac disease is an autoimmune disease, individuals diagnosed with it may experience fatigue regularly.
Another condition that occurs due to celiac disease is iron-deficiency anemia, where the production of red blood cells in the body is lowered. The result of impaired duodenal iron absorption in this condition can also lead to reduced energy levels and fatigue.
Even individuals with non-celiac gluten sensitivity report fatigue as a common symptom. One study found that 64% of 486 people suspected of non-celiac gluten sensitivity reported that they experienced tiredness.
6. Mood Disorders
Though a little unusual, it is true that gluten insensitivity can result in certain individuals experiencing extreme feelings of anxiety. People who are gluten intolerant can have brain inflammation that manifests as increased anxiety. Anxiety brings about feelings of nervousness, intense worry, or agitation and can lead to depression if untreated.
Studies have shown that people who are gluten intolerant are more likely to face mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. A gluten-free diet can relieve these symptoms in many individuals.
7. Muscle and Joint Pain
The body’s reaction to gluten can be in the form of muscle and joint pain. When inflammation occurs, it affects the functioning of muscles and causes pain in the joints.
Studies affirm that gluten intolerance can trigger fibromyalgia, and this condition results in intense pain in the muscles and associated joints.
8. Brain Fog
Brain fog is a condition that is characterized by the inability to think clearly. Individuals may encounter brain fog in the form of forgetfulness, a fatigued or clouded mind, and so on. A person experiencing brain fog frequently should get checked to rule out gluten insensitivity.
Research shows that one of the most common symptoms described by nearly 48% of individuals with gluten intolerance is brain fog. The reason is thought to be an abnormal absorption of gluten through an alteration in the small intestinal barrier that can affect the central nervous system and trigger neuroinflammation and brain fog.
9. Skin Problems
Gluten insensitivity can affect the skin and create problems ranging from mild to severe in people with celiac disease. Such conditions include psoriasis, alopecia areata, dermatitis herpetiformis, and more.
Different theories surround these conditions, but it is known that gluten intolerance affects the small intestine in those with celiac disease. Because of this, the presence of more antigens (toxins) impairs nutrient absorption in those with celiac disease and may be a reason for the prevalence of some conditions.
Reproductive issues are becoming increasingly prevalent in people with gluten intolerance. Experts say that in unexplained infertility, gluten may sometimes be the culprit, especially for people with celiac disease.
The reason for this is poor nutrient absorption, specifically the absorption of zinc, iron, folate, and selenium, which affect reproduction in different ways (4).
Gluten intolerance is troublesome but often undetected in many people. The best way to manage it is to understand its symptoms and take steps to prevent them.
Gluten intolerance can be managed by avoiding foods that contain gluten. Knowing what to eat makes it easier, whether you prepare food at home or eat out. Using gluten-free meal delivery apps like Sunbasket or Home Chef is another safe option for individuals who prefer the convenience of ordering meals.
Along with the right medical intervention, diet modifications and strict diet adherence can help effectively manage gluten intolerance.