Rachel is a lifestyle writer who specialized in women's health, fitness, and wellness.
What is Gluten, Anyway?
We've all heard of it, but what the heck is gluten, really?
Gluten is a mixture of two proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, and other grains. It is considered potentially dangerous for some because it can cause unpleasant physical reactions and damage inside the body.
Those who are unknowingly gluten sensitive often do not connect the dots between their physical reactions to eating products containing gluten and an allergy or intolerance to the substance. If you're exhibiting any of these 9 signs of gluten sensitivity, you may want to consult a healthcare professional to discuss your symptoms further.
1. Gastrointestinal Turbulence
Symptoms of gluten sensitivity are most closely associated with your intestines and may include:
• Abdominal pain
People tend to assume that these symptoms are indicative of other diseases, and patients are often inaccurately diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Studies have confirmed that about ten to fifteen percent of the global population suffer from IBS. Unfortunately, improper diagnosis can cause people with gluten sensitivity to receive ineffective treatments.
2. Unexplainable Weight Changes
Gluten intolerance can contribute to unexplainable weight loss or weight gain. These changes are caused by inflammatory processes that take place at a cellular level. Fluctuations in weight may also be caused by metabolic disorders. If your weight changes are accompanied by other symptoms of malabsorption, gluten intolerance could be the culprit.
Malabsorption refers to the inability of the small intestine to absorb enough of certain nutrients and fluids.
3. Imbalanced Hormones
Gluten intolerance is correlated with hormonal disorders. Hormonal disorders can manifest as irregular menstruation, sudden changes in weight, PMS, or sleep disorders. Hormonal imbalance caused by gluten intolerance can be much more intense during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause.
4. Central Nervous System Problems
Gluten promotes inflammation and makes your intestines more permeable. Symptoms of gluten sensitivity affecting your central nervous system may include trouble focusing, depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, and fatigue. Some gluten intolerant people report irritability and a feeling of “spacing out,” or forgetting what they were thinking about.
A narrative review of available studies on gluten intolerance and migraines in World Journal of Gastroenterology reported that around 25 percent of people with gluten sensitivity also have chronic headaches, and that migraines are especially common in this population. If you’re sensitive to gluten, you may experience a headache within an hour of consuming gluten-containing foods.
5. Skin and Nail Issues
Skin conditions like hair keratosis and herpetiform dermatitis are known effects of gluten intolerance and celiac disease. Skin problems such as itching or rashes on the hands, face, torso, elbows, buttocks or hairline could be indicative of gluten sensitivity. Fingernails may also become weak and brittle.
Celiac disease is an immune disease in which people can not eat gluten because it will damage their small intestine.
- Celiac Disease | Gluten Intolerance | MedlinePlus
Learn more about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of celiac disease.
6. Exaggerated ADHD Symptoms
Interestingly, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can be worsened by gluten intake. ADHD can present in children, as well as adults. People with ADHD often have a short attention span or struggle with self-control. A gluten-free diet may help reduce and relieve these symptoms.
7. Teeth Trouble
In a person who is gluten intolerant, vital minerals like calcium are not properly absorbed in the intestines. Poor calcium absorption can lead to troubles with your teeth. It also contributes to other oral issues, like hypersensitivity of the enamel, tooth decay, cavities, and ulcers.
8. Iron Deficiency Anemia
One way of diagnosing celiac disease is the presence of iron deficiency anemia. Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia may include reduced blood volume, fatigue, difficulty breathing, headaches, pale skin, and arthritis. In a gluten intolerant individual, iron is not efficiently absorbed in the intestines.
9. Autoimmune Diseases
People with autoimmune disease frequently experience gluten intolerance. Celiac disease increases your risk of developing other autoimmune diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, diabetes, vitiligo, multiple sclerosis, or rheumatoid arthritis.
I Might Be Gluten Sensitive, What Now?
A licensed healthcare professional can take a blood sample to look for antibodies that are typically seen in people with celiac disease. Before your visit, you will need to have consumed some gluten to provide the most accurate results.
An at-home test is an easy and convenient way to check for gluten intolerance. The Everlywell Food Sensitivity Test can help you start to understand how your body tolerates certain foods. Everlywell is the only home testing company I trust to provide detailed specimen collection instructions and deliver fast results. I was able to view my results on their website within two days of my sample reaching the lab.
All test orders and results are reviewed and approved by an independent board-certified physician in your state.
Always check food product labels before you eat and look for the words “gluten-free.” A gluten elimination diet involves cutting out or substituting for foods containing grains like wheat, rye, barley, spelt, farro, and couscous.
- 8 Foods to Avoid with a Gluten Intolerance (and 7 to Eat)
Here are 8 food groups to avoid with a gluten intolerance—plus 7 to eat.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2021 Rachel Hezel