Gluten intolerance or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, as it is also called, has some of the same symptoms as celiac disease, but is less severe. However, gluten intolerance can cause considerable discomfort. Lifestyle changes can be used to try to manage its symptoms. Gluten intolerance is often confused with celiac disease. But these are two separate diseases. Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disease, which can damage a person’s digestive system.
Unlike celiac disease, it is not known exactly why the symptoms of gluten intolerance occur. But it doesn’t seem to involve the immune system or damage the gastrointestinal or GI tract. Gluten intolerance can also sometimes be confused with a wheat allergy. A wheat allergy can be life-threatening. Indeed, some symptoms can interfere with breathing or cause loss of consciousness, which is not the case with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. The symptoms of gluten intolerance are less severe than those of celiac disease or wheat allergy.
This article outlines seven symptoms associated with gluten intolerance, along with foods that contain gluten.
The Seven Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance
Most of these symptoms appear shortly after gluten consumption. However, the exact combination of symptoms can vary. People who report gluten intolerance note the following symptoms as some of the most common when they include gluten-containing foods in their regular diet.
1. Diarrhea and Constipation
Symptoms of gluten intolerance can include constipation, fatigue, headaches and nausea. People who report suffering from gluten intolerance say regular bouts of diarrhea and constipation are a common symptom. It’s normal to have such digestive issues on occasion, but having them most of the time can indicate an underlying condition. People with celiac disease may also experience diarrhea and constipation. They may also have particularly foul-smelling stools, as this condition causes poor nutrient absorption.
Another very common symptom reported by people with gluten intolerance is bloating. It is a feeling of being full, uncomfortable and long-lasting. It is also common to experience a buildup of gas. Overeating is the most common cause of bloating. But they can be due to different reasons. In people with gluten intolerance, the feeling of bloating can occur very regularly and is not necessarily related to the amount of food eaten.
3. Abdominal pain
Likewise, several different causes can lead to abdominal pain. But, again, people reporting gluten intolerance often report experiencing abdominal pain frequently and for no other obvious reason.
Fatigue is another symptom that people can have trouble identifying, as it can have many different causes, many of which are unrelated to a medical condition. People with gluten intolerance may experience a feeling of persistent fatigue that interferes with their daily functioning.
People with gluten intolerance may also experience nausea, especially after consuming a meal containing gluten. Nausea can have many causes, but if it often occurs after eating gluten, it could be a sign of gluten intolerance.
Experiencing regular headaches is another symptom that can occur in people with gluten intolerance.
7. Other symptoms
People with gluten intolerance may experience many of these symptoms on a regular basis. Other symptoms can also appear in case of gluten intolerance, but they are less frequent.
It can be:
joint and muscle pain
depression or anxiety
severe abdominal pain
How to diagnose gluten intolerance?
If gluten intolerance is suspected, it is essential to first ensure that a more serious condition, such as celiac disease or wheat allergy, is not present. Taking a blood sample, which is then tested for the presence of antibodies that could indicate celiac disease or wheat allergy, often does this. In some cases, other tests may also be needed. Once a doctor has ruled out a more serious condition, it can still be difficult for them to confirm the presence of gluten intolerance, as there are no tests for it. The most common method of determining if a gluten intolerance is present is to reduce or eliminate gluten from the diet and monitor the progress of symptoms. It may be helpful for a person to keep a food diary to record the foods they eat and the symptoms they have.
Foods to Avoid
Foods that contain gluten are wheat, rye, and pasta, among others.
People with gluten intolerance try to avoid any food containing gluten, i.e. any food that contains:
wheat, and any derivative of wheat, such as spelled
barley, including malt
brewer’s yeast, which usually comes from beer.
This elimination policy excludes many types of food and beverages. The most common foods and beverages containing gluten are:
bread and pastries
many baked goods
crepes, waffles and pancakes
many sauces and gravies
How to Reduce Gluten Intake
While people with celiac disease must exclude gluten from their diet as soon as a doctor has diagnosed the condition, many people with gluten intolerance slowly reduce their gluten intake, instead of eliminating it from scratch. right away. It may be helpful to start with one gluten-free meal a day, then gradually add more. It is not necessarily beneficial for all people with gluten intolerance to completely eliminate gluten from their diet. Because the severity of symptoms varies from person to person.
Some people may be able to consume small amounts of gluten without experiencing symptoms. The majority of people with gluten intolerance, however, may wish to phase out gluten from their diet.
Celiac disease (n.d.)
Gluten sensitivity. (n.d.)
Lebwohl, B., Ludvigsson, J. F., & Green, P. H. R. (2015, October 5). Celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. The BMJ, 351, h4347
Molina-Infante, J., Santolaria, S., Sanders, D. S., & Fernández-Bañares, F. (2015, March 6). Systematic review: Noncoeliac gluten sensitivity. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 41(9), 807–820
Wheat allergy. (n.d.)
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