Cakes, pasta, pancakes, pretzels, muffins, donuts, and even beer. Sounds like a mouth-watering buffet, right. Unfortunately, it can also be harmful to those who have an intolerance for one of the prime ingredients in those dishes – gluten.
Gluten comes from a family of proteins found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley. Of the grains that it is present in, gluten is consumed the most through wheat-based products. According to Dr. Rabia De Latour, a gastroenterologist and advanced endoscopist at NYU School of Medicine, “it can be really hard to digest for some people.”
So while most people just feel joy while shoveling down those tasty treats, some people suffer from gluten intolerance. There are different intensities of gluten intolerance. The two most common ones are explained below:
Sometimes, this gluten intolerance manifests in a very severe form. It causes people to develop celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder, wherein eating gluten can cause permanent damage to the small intestine. The Celiac Disease Foundation states that the disease “is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide. Two and one-half million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications.”
Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity
There are some people though, who suffer most of the same symptoms of the disease but don’t show any of the same physical changes in the organs or body like damage to the small intestine or malnutrition. These people suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). According to studies, about 0.5 – 13% of the population could be suffering from this condition.
MedicalNewsToday states that though there is no clear way to define NCGS, the diagnosis is made when “a patient reacts negatively to gluten, but celiac disease and allergies have been ruled out.”
However, going on a gluten-free diet has become a new trend.
A study conducted looked at a sample of 400 people who had diagnosed themselves with gluten intolerance and investigated whether they saw improvement when following a gluten-free diet. In the results, it showed that 26 people had celiac disease, 2 had a wheat allergy, and only 27 people were diagnosed as gluten sensitive. This shows that of the 400 people who had diagnosed themselves as gluten intolerant, only 55 of them had a real issue with gluten.
This indicates that not everyone understands what it means to be gluten intolerant and may have a problem identifying the signs if they actually had it. So what are the signs of gluten intolerance?
Signs of gluten intolerance
If you find yourself suffering from any of these symptoms, it is important to immediately consult your doctor to see whether you are gluten intolerant and if gluten needs to be removed from your diet.
1. Your digestion is unstable
Considering how gluten is edible, the first place it’s going to go in is the stomach and intestines. A healthy person would be able to digest the gluten properly and pass it out through their stool without any issues. However, a person who may be suffering from gluten intolerance might find themselves experiencing uncomfortable digestion. If you have glucose intolerance, the first sign is the feeling of being gassy, bloated, constipated or suffering from diarrhea. You could even experience reflux or abdominal pain.
2. Your skin is acting up
If you find acne on your skin, it could be for a host of reasons. However, gluten, when not properly absorbed in the system, can affect the skin. It can lead to a formation of watery, itchy blisters that may look like pimples. It could cause various skin problems like acne, psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis, herpetiformis or even Keratosis Pilaris which is a result of the intestinal damage from gluten.
3. You’re always tired – always
If you feel tired all the time, even after naps and a normal amount of sleep, it could be because the body is unable to break down the gluten and handle the inflammation that occurs when gluten products are ingested. So your body is working overtime to no effect.
4. You have severe migraines
Migraines are a common condition and can occur due to various factors. However, they are extremely common among those who are gluten intolerant. If you find yourself suffering from frequent and severe migraines, especially after ingesting gluten, it could be that the inflammation caused can trigger them.
5. You feel like you have a foggy brain
According to VeryWellHealth, a foggy brain means that you face difficulty in concentrating and may even experience short-term memory lapses. You might even find yourself losing your train of thought mid-conversation or become unusually confused. This is one of the top signs of gluten intolerance.
6. You lose weight even without trying
You’re probably enjoying that drop in pounds especially when you still get to eat the things you like and not have to work for it. Unfortunately, it’s one of the primary symptoms of celiac disease. According to Women’s Health, Dr. Megan Patrick, a family medicine physician at UCHealth says that the involuntary weight loss occurs when your “intestines are damaged [and] you aren’t properly absorbing the food you eat.” In the case of NCGS, the gluten doesn’t damage your intestines as much but it can cause you to eat less due to associating so many foods with pain which then can cause weight loss.
7. Your hormones are all over the place
Inflammation due to gluten consumption can make your adrenal glands release more hormones than required. This imbalance then sets off a domino effect and an excess of cortisol will be released to respond to the stress of trying to digest gluten. This can cause your mood to be unstable.
8. You keep feeling the ‘pins-and-needles’ sensation
It all boils down to the inflammation caused by consuming gluten. The pins-and-needles sensation is called peripheral neuropathy. It’s a very common thing to experience. However, if you suddenly experience this sensation without having done anything to trigger it, it’s best to get yourself checked out for gluten intolerance. This inflammation can also lead you to experience vertigo, feel dizzy, and tingling sensation across your body.
It is essential that if you feel 1 or more of these symptoms at the same time and especially after consuming gluten products, you need to consult a doctor. Getting yourself checked for gluten intolerance or celiac disease will allow you to modify your diet such that you won’t suffer the symptoms.