10 Gluten Intolerance Signs & Symptoms

10 Gluten Intolerance Signs & Symptoms
wheat field, 10 Gluten Intolerance Signs

Why gluten intake is bad for you

A scientific review which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that the consumption of gluten can possibly trigger 55 different diseases. As alarming as it sounds, it actually turns out to be true.

There are, in fact, quite a number of conditions caused by eating gluten. These range from fatigue to inflammatory bowel diseases, even osteoporosis – all by simply eating this protein. Gluten also causes inflammation, which in turn can affect your entire body. Simply put, gluten can have an adverse effect on your brain in the same way that it affects your digestive system and joints.

If you have a chronic health issue, or even if you don’t, you want to eliminate gluten from your diet. After all, gluten is associated with some of the most problematic conditions such as digestive issues and poor brain function.

In the event you’ve already consumed gluten, here are 10 telltale signs that you are gluten intolerant:

Sign 1: digestive issues

Occasionally suffering from constipation, diarrhea, and other digestive issues might seem normal. However, if either one of them happens almost too often, it could be a sign that gluten is starting to wreck your body.

Not surprisingly, this is also a common symptom experienced by gluten intolerant individuals and those with celiac disease. In some cases, they may even have a particularly pale and unpleasant bowel mainly because the condition prevents their body from absorbing nutrients properly.

According to research, gluten consumption causes digestive issues by disrupting the barriers of the intestine, thus allowing harmful substances to move through towards the bloodstream. Around 14% of Americans suffer from the so-called IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) which causes all sorts of digestive issues. The consumption of gluten makes the symptom even worse than before. In some cases, it may even be the cause of IBS.

Around 50% of gluten intolerant individuals suffer from diarrhea on a regular basis, while around 25% of them suffer from constipation.

While this is common to gluten intolerant and celiac-afflicted individuals, those who have been consuming foods with gluten can also be negatively affected. If you begin to experience such symptoms, you might want to stop the consumption of foods containing gluten as soon as possible. If left unattended, it may lead to some serious issues such as dehydration, fatigue, and the loss of electrolytes in the body.

Sign 2: skin problems

Intolerance to gluten doesn’t just affect your digestive tract, it also affects your skin as well. If you’re starting to experience skin conditions which you never had before, it might be a sign that gluten is starting to take its toll on your body.

According to research, 7 out of 10 celiac-afflicted individuals experience symptoms on their skin. There’s actually a variety of them, but the most common which is linked to gluten is dermatitis herpetiformis.

Dermatitis herpetiformis is a gluten-caused skin condition in which you experience one of the itchiest rashes you could ever have. It’s a really painful rash which is often found in 15-25% of individuals who have celiac disease. If you have this symptom, you’ll notice lesions which appear on any part of your body, mostly in the knees, elbows, and buttocks. Fortunately, this only happens to individuals who have a diagnosed or undiagnosed celiac disease.

Another common symptom is a very dry and flaky skin. Although it’s still not clear whether the consumption of gluten directly causes dry skin, some physicians believe that poor nutrient absorption caused by celiac disease can steal the nutrients which your skin is supposed to have, thereby leading to a very dry skin. In some cases, this can be remedied by resorting to a gluten-free diet.

Lastly, there’s psoriasis, a skin condition which causes your skin to develop red and scaly plaques. According to several studies, regular gluten consumption is strongly linked to the development of this condition.

Those who are diagnosed with psoriasis have huge amounts of antibodies in their bloodstreams which only suggests that their bodies are reacting to the gluten in their diets regardless if they’re diagnosed with celiac disease or not.

While it’s not yet clear whether gluten is directly causing psoriasis or not, there are some reports that show people who followed a gluten-free diet were able to experience a significant improvement in their skin symptoms even if they don’t have celiac disease.

Sign 3: recurring migraines

A lot of people suffer from a headache or migraine every once in a while. In fact, it’s a common condition which affects around 10-12% of the Western population. However, if migraine appears too often, it can be a cause for concern, especially if you’re gluten-intolerant.

Interestingly, a number of studies revealed that those with gluten intolerance are more prone to migraines compared to others. If you have migraines that occur regularly without any clear cause, it might be because you’re sensitive to gluten.

You might wonder: what is the connection between gluten and migraine?

For some people, gluten could trigger migraine. There have been a number of studies that confirmed the connection between celiac disease and migraine. A recurring migraine can be an early indicator of celiac disease, and those suffering from celiac disease are more likely to experience recurring migraines.

According to researchers, the connection between celiac disease and migraine is due to the increased gut permeability and inflammation. As your gut starts “leaking” inflammatory compounds toward the bloodstream, they can easily find their way into the brain, thereby causing migraine.

The connection is so strong that some researchers even recommend that individuals who suffer from recurring migraines should consult with their doctors to check the possibility of celiac disease. Surprisingly, this connection isn’t just exclusive to celiac disease. It’s also found in individuals who have intestinal disorders such as the IBS.

There are only a few studies conducted to address this issue. Fortunately, they did find that having a gluten-free diet can significantly reduce or even eliminate the occurrence of migraine. Although they are still in their preliminary phase, it seems that the results of a gluten-free diet showed a massive decline in both the duration and intensity of migraines.

Further research is still required to confirm, but the results suggest that having a gluten-free diet can be a major help to relieve migraines and headaches without relying on expensive medications.

gluten free grains

Sign 4: Chronic Fatigue or Fibromyalgia

The feeling of tiredness is a very common occurrence and is not often linked to any medical condition. However, if you get very tired on a constant basis, it’s likely that you have an underlying condition.

One good example is gluten intolerance. People who are gluten-intolerant are more likely to experience chronic fatigue, especially when taking foods that have gluten. According to studies, around 60 – 82% of gluten-intolerant patients suffer from constant fatigue regularly. In addition to that, gluten intolerance can also lead to iron-deficiency anemia which is another major cause for tiredness.

If you wake up constantly tired even after getting a good amount of sleep, chances are you have gluten intolerance. Therefore, regardless of how much you sleep, your body won’t be able to get enough rest due to the effects of gluten. The reason is because your body ends up expending all of its energy to “attack” your allergen, which is gluten in this case, thus causing you to get drained of all energy which results into fatigue.

If you experience fatigue or a “foggy mind”, likewise known as brain fog, you may have what they call non-celiac gluten sensitivity or perhaps an undiagnosed celiac disease. In some cases, chronic fatigue can be a symptom of an even serious condition, one of which is celiac.

If you think that you have an allergy due to gluten, the only way you can confirm this is through an official diagnosis from your doctor. Various tests can easily determine if the cause is due to gluten. Afterwards, depending on the severity of your allergy, you may have to limit or even eliminate your consumption of gluten.

Meanwhile, if you are not sensitive to gluten, you shouldn’t experience any consistent feeling of tiredness from consuming it. Therefore, unless you’re allergic to gluten, you shouldn’t feel sleepy on a regular basis.

Sign 5: joint pains

Joint and muscle pains can be caused by a number of reasons. One theory states that people suffering from celiac disease have an innately oversensitive nervous system. As a result, they’ll have a lower threshold for activating sensory neurons which lead to joint and muscle pains.

Aside from that, exposure to gluten can also lead to inflammation in people with gluten intolerance. This inflammation can cause a wide variety of pain – that includes pain in the muscles and joints. Recent studies have shown that there’s a possible connection between non-pathologic joint pain and gluten.

Fortunately, you can stop suffering from chronic joint pain by eliminating gluten in your diet. This is especially helpful as it also helps you increase your energy levels, trim down belly fat, and even clear up your skin.

Sign 6: autoimmune diseases

If you suffer from an autoimmune disease, you want to get better and reverse your disease’s progression if possible. From a medical perspective, these two can be achieved by simply knowing the root cause of your condition. According to researchers and medical practitioners, gluten is one of the many possible causes.

There’s actually a well-known connection between autoimmune diseases and gluten. Therefore, a lot of healthcare providers recommend that you stick with a gluten-free diet if you are suffering from an autoimmune disease.

By now, you’ve probably heard that those with any form of autoimmune condition should eliminate gluten from their diet at all costs. You might have also heard of people thinking that gluten didn’t pose a problem to them at all.

Like a lot of issues, the truth actually lies somewhere in between. A recently published study has examined the connection between autoimmune diseases and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. According to the study, people who have non-celiac gluten sensitivity have an increased incidence of autoimmune conditions than those without. This study also looked at patients with celiac, those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and normal individuals. It also considered the levels of autoimmune disease for each test group.

Researchers found that the incidence of autoimmune thyroid disease was similar in both the celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity group. Therefore, there was an increase incidence which was the same for the two groups, and gluten seems to be a major factor.

Another interesting finding was that the levels of another autoimmune marker which is called ANA (antinuclear antibodies), was higher in people with NCGS than those with celiac. Specifically, 24% of the subjects who have NCGS experienced high levels of the ANA which indexes autoimmunity compared to only 20% of those with celiac.

Now, if you have an autoimmune disease, consuming gluten can pose a serious threat due to a phenomenon known as molecular mimicry. Each time your body is exposed to any form of invader (gluten in this case), your immune system will try to memorise its structure to allow it to create the perfect defence to the said pathogen.

In people with an autoimmune thyroid disease, each time they consume gluten, their immune system will send antibodies to destroy it. However, since gluten and their thyroid gland looks similar, some of those antibodies will mistakingly end up attacking the thyroid.

There are also several other proteins like casein which share the same molecular structure as that of gluten. Due to molecular mimicry, each time you eat dairy, your body will think that you just consumed gluten and incite an immune reaction.

Sign 7: hormonal imbalance

Aside from messing up your brain, bones, muscles, skin, digestive tract, and neurological system, gluten sensitivity can also have a negative impact on your endocrine system which is responsible for your hormones. Specifically, gluten puts stress on your adrenal glands which results in hormonal imbalance.

The adrenal glands are situated on top of your kidneys and are the ones responsible for a lot of your bodily actions. Mainly, they give you energy, keep your immune system strong, maintain your weight, control sleep quality, maintain a stable mood, keep various allergies at bay, help with hormonal imbalance, and more.

Also, since they are the stress buffering glands in your body, they essentially help you cope with daily stress by producing hormones. In the event your adrenal glands get exhausted, your body systems will start to break down. They’ll stop functioning normally, causing them unable to repair themselves. This also causes your body to function slowly, leading to depression, fatigue, loss of libido, and more. Once you undergo chronic stress, your adrenal glands will start producing stress hormones in exchange for your sex hormones.

However, if you have gluten intolerance but still continue eating foods that contain gluten, your adrenal glands will suffer from chronic stress due to an ongoing intestinal inflammation. This can lead to chronic adrenal exhaustion which is a major factor in certain conditions like arthritis, depression, fatigue, fibromyalgia, and hormonal imbalance.

Unfortunately, while gluten sensitivity and the accompanying stress on the adrenal glands is a common occurrence, it is rarely diagnosed. Due to this, a lot of people suffer since they are not tested properly for this condition.

But why exactly are your adrenal glands affected if you continue consuming gluten while being gluten-sensitive?

The answer is because your adrenal glands are quite sensitive to unstable blood sugar. In case you’re wondering, a stable blood sugar is derived from eating healthy, gluten-free food. If you’re gluten intolerant, gluten is basically poison. Therefore, regularly consuming gluten can create unstable blood sugar which in turn places a tremendous amount of stress on your adrenal glands.

Since your adrenal glands are responsible for a wide variety of bodily functions, simply removing gluten from your diet is not enough to restore their original function. They have to be “reset” using a dietary program to help restore their original health. This also explains why most gluten-sensitive individuals still suffer from the following symptoms:

  • Asthma
  • Fatigue
  • Allergies
  • Joint pains and aches
  • Frequent illness
  • Sleeping issues
  • Unexpected weight gain
  • Migraines

As a result, even if you’re diagnosed with a non-celiac gluten sensitivity and follow a gluten-free diet, you might still continue suffering from symptoms brought about by adrenal stress if you can’t find a specialist who works in restoring your adrenal glands’ original health and function.

Sign 8: frequent mood swings

This might sound surprising, but your digestive system is literally considered your second brain; and as such, has the ability to influence your mood and behavior. Both your brain and gut work alongside each other and are connected via the vagus nerve.

As it turns out, serotonin, which is known as the feel-good neurotransmitter and has a huge effect in your mood, actually has a massive concentration in your gut, or the so-called second brain. This might explain why a lot of researchers keep on finding a connection between the imbalance of bacteria in the gut and depression. Additionally, more and more start using nutrition to help treat the condition rather than medication which doesn’t seem to help at all.

Here’s another surprising fact: around 100 trillion bacteria thrive in your body – that’s 10 times the total number of your cells! Ideally, the ratio between the bacteria inside your gut is 85% good and 15% bad. As such, keeping your gut flora nourished is important to keep the production of serotonin at its optimum level, which in turn can help protect your mental health.

Your gut bacteria are easily affected by your lifestyle. Eating a lot of foods that contain gluten and sugar can cause them to suffer. In general, gluten, sugar, as well as processed foods damage your gut health by destroying good bacteria and nourishing bad bacteria.

By regularly consuming gluten, the number of good bacteria in your gut will significantly decrease. This can lead to a number of symptoms such as bad breath, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, yeast infection, dandruff, eczema, psoriasis, joint pain, and mood swings.

This can also cause you to crave for more gluten-rich foods. The best way you can solve this issue and eliminate mood swings is by following a gluten-free diet and completely eliminate gluten from your lifestyle.

Sign 9: dramatic weight gain

Although there’s no evidence that removing gluten from your diet can lead to weight loss, following a gluten-free diet may prompt you to eat more unprocessed foods like fruits and vegetables. Also, those who follow a gluten-free diet are more likely to make healthier food choices simply because they are aware of the importance of reading food labels.

That aside, it’s already been confirmed by a study that gluten can cause weight gain. The study which was conducted by a Brazilian research team and published in the January 2013 Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry attempted to examine the differences between gluten-fed rats and rats that had a gluten-free diet in terms of their biochemical markers. Their aim was to put an end to the so-called “wheat belly” controversy and confirm whether or not gluten can cause weight gains.

In the study, both groups of rats were subjected to high-fat diets. However, one was gluten-free while the other has 4.5% gluten in their foods. It turns out that the group which was gluten-free exhibited a significant weight loss with no trace of lipid fat excretion.

According to GreenMedInfo’s founder, Sayer Ji, instead of calories, gluten is actually the major factor of obesity. Also, the fact that both groups were given high-fat diets and the gluten-free group experienced weight loss without excreting lipids also means that fat-free diets with the aim of losing weight are just fraud.

He also recommends avoiding gluten-rich foods, especially weight, to find out if gluten consumption could be the underlying cause of an unexpected weight gain.

Sign 10: neurological issues

The consumption of gluten can negatively affect your neurological system. Additionally, people who have celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity have reported symptoms such as brain fog, migraines, and peripheral neuropathy.

Also, a number of neurological conditions like anxiety and depression are also common in people who are sensitive to gluten. Lastly, there are hints that conditions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia might be affected by the consumption of gluten in some individuals. However, there’s still no solid evidence as to who might be affected and if following a gluten-free diet can actually help.

A recent study found that 70% of patients with gluten sensitivity have social phobias while 52% have depression. These are basically the neurological manifestations related to celiac disease and NCGS. However, there are also a few others.

Another study conducted by Italian researchers found that 22.5% of individuals who have gluten sensitivity tend to experience depression, migraines, neuropathy, and epilepsy. It was determined that the immune system played a part in 42% of the patients as the researchers were able to detect antibody reactivity to neural antigens.

Interestingly, the ones whose antibodies reacted to neural antigens didn’t have any neurological problems. This means that the said problems might sometimes take a while to manifest. Also, if patients followed a traditional gluten-free diet, the results still revealed the same antibodies. This only means that simply eliminating barley and wheat didn’t change the way the immune system responded to gluten sensitivity.

The research has also demonstrated the effects of consuming gluten on your body. In this case, those with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity developed a number of symptoms which affected the nervous system like depression, headache, seizures, and more. Also, following the traditional gluten-free diet didn’t eliminate the antibodies present during follow-up testing on the subjects.

Keep in mind that gluten is present in all grains. Other studies also identify other grains as a major problem for people with gluten intolerance. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that substitute grains like rice and sorghum aren’t properly studied to use as substitutes.

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