The Most Common Gluten Intolerance Symptoms Revealed
Food is a necessary and delicious part of your daily life. Certain foods give you energy, make you feel better and provide your body with important nutrients. Other foods seem to zap your energy, make you feel tired and the nutrients you get from them, you could get from other comparable foods. One of these foods that can decrease your energy, cause fatigue and cause gastrointestinal distress is gluten.
Gluten is found in the grains wheat, barley and rye. It is a combination of two proteins- gliadin and glutenin. If you experience symptoms of gluten intolerance, your body is having an allergic reaction to the gliadin protein of gluten. The body’s response is an autoimmune response and it starts to fight the gluten as if it is invading your body. This leads to inflammation of your intestines, especially the small intestine and can affect your ability to absorb nutrients.
The body attacks the small hairs that line the intestines. Through these hairs, your body absorbs your nutrients. When the tiny hairs do not stand up and instead lie flat, your body is no longer absorbing the nutrients from the foods you eat. A doctor can examine this damage through a procedure called an endoscopy where he takes a small sample of your intestinal lining. This test is only after a blood test confirms or rules out that you have an immune reaction to gluten.
Celiac disease is the name for the autoimmune response to gluten and approximately 1 percent of the population has this condition, according to the American Council on Exercise, ACE.
This is an extreme gluten intolerance and if left untreated, can lead to nutritional deficiencies and other issues such as infertility, osteoporosis, developmental delays, other auto immune disorders, neurological issues and possibly cancer.
The symptoms of gluten intolerance in children can affect a child’s growth, neurological development, muscular development and can result in excessive pain in the stomach and intestines. Infants can also experience symptoms of gluten intolerance such as foul-smelling stools, diarrhea or constipation.
People with gluten intolerance, or gluten sensitivity, are much more common than those with celiac disease. If you or your child has gluten intolerance symptoms such as stomach discomfort after eating wheat, or experiencing diarrhea or constipation, seek the advice of your physician. One easy way to identify a gluten intolerance is that if the symptoms go away when you don’t eat gluten, you may have a gluten sensitivity.
If you eat gluten and have an intolerance for it, you repeatedly do damage to your small intestine. This leads to an inability of your body to absorb the healthy nutrients which can affect everything from your skin to your hair to your brain function. In children, it also delays physical and neurological growth. The lack of nutrients can delay puberty and contribute to learning disabilities and neurological concerns such as ADHD.
What Are The Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance?
Gluten intolerance typically presents itself as gastrointestinal distress such as bloating, gas, diarrhea or constipation, according to the Mayo Clinic. Other symptoms include:
- Unexplained weight gain or weight loss
- Osteoporosis, or Osteopenia- a weakening of the bones
- Skin rash
- Damaged teeth enamel
- Extreme tiredness
- Difficulty with balance
- Tingling hands or feet
- Painful joints
- Acid reflux or heartburn
Most of the symptoms occur within a short time period of eating gluten foods such as rye, barley and wheat. But symptoms also build up over time. A gluten intolerance may have started when you were a child, but the symptoms only appeared as an adult.
Gluten Intolerance Symptoms in Children
Children and infants often experience the same symptoms as adults, but they can have unusual symptoms as well. If you suspect your child is sensitive to gluten, the Mayo Clinic suggests looking for the following symptoms:
- Persistent diarrhea
- Failure for infants to thrive
- Swollen abdomen
- Foul-smelling stools
- Painful stomach
- Shorter children
- Puberty delays
- Lack of coordination
- Learning challenges
- Anxiety issues such as ADHD- Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
If your child has even one symptom of gluten intolerance, speak to your physician about your concerns. An adjusted diet without gluten and a disappearance or reduction in symptoms is a large indicator that your child has a gluten sensitivity, but a diagnosis cannot be confirmed without the proper medical tests. A blood test is the first way a physician will screen for a gluten sensitivity. If you, as a parent, suspect a gluten intolerance, be mindful of your children. Children with a family history of gluten sensitivity are more prone to develop the condition.
Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance in Women
Women may trigger a gluten intolerance during pregnancy, childbirth or times of extreme emotional distress, according to the Mayo Clinic. A virus infection or surgery can also trigger the body’s reaction to gluten.
A list of gluten intolerance symptoms in women include the same symptoms as adults and children. These vary from gastrointestinal distress such as bloating and gas to diarrhea or constipation, weight loss or gain, hair loss, and anemia. Women may also experience menstrual irregularities, miscarriages, infertility, vomiting, bone or muscle pain.
What Are Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance
The Celiac Disease Foundation provides a check list to determine if you or your children have a gluten intolerance. The questions also reveal more symptoms of gluten intolerance and can help you decide if medical treatment is necessary. Consider such questions as:
- Are you experiencing hair loss?
- Is the enamel of your teeth changing?
- Do you feel stomach pain after eating?
- Are you constipated or do you have diarrhea for more than three days?
- Do you have an itchy skin rash?
- Are you extremely tired?
- Are you experiencing a vitamin deficiency?
- Do you have headaches or migraines?
- Are you feeling anxious or depressed?
- Do you feel irritable?
- Is your coordination or balance suffering?
- Are you bloated?
- Do you have gas?
- Are you lactose intolerant?
- Do you have osteoporosis?
- Are your periods irregular?
- Have you had a miscarriage?
- Is your child experiencing a developmental or physical growth delay?
Answer the questions honestly, but keep in mind that the symptoms may also be an indication of other conditions or disease. However, the more information you can bring to your doctor, the better your treatment will be.
The choice to eat gluten-free may not be given to you. If you have Celiac Disease or are gluten intolerant, you’ll have to change your diet to completely avoid gluten. Some people choose to eat gluten-free without getting a diagnosis simply because it makes them feel better when they avoid gluten.
Whatever your reasons for eating gluten-free, keep these foods in your diet to bring in necessary nutrients, recommends the American Council on Exercise, ACE:
- Nuts and nut flours such as almond flour
Always speak with your doctor before eliminating gluten, as the tests for gluten intolerance are not accurate if you’ve already removed gluten from your diet.
Other Gluten Concerns
The Celiac Disease Foundation reminds that gluten is not only in wheat flour. You may be surprised to find gluten in your lipstick or other lip balms. It is even found in some toothpastes and lotions. Other foods to use caution before eating if you are gluten-sensitive include:
- Salad Dressings
- Soy Sauce
- Granola Bars
- Candy Bars
- Playdoh- not a food, but if your child touches his mouth after playing with it, a reaction may occur
- Communion Wafers
Another concern is cross-contamination of food. You may order a gluten-free pizza, but if the pizza place prepares your meal on the same pan as a gluten-filled crust, your allergy could flare up. Also, be knowledgeable when eating out at restaurants. Some cooks prepare their eggs with pancake batter, which contains gluten.
The best sources of gluten-free foods are natural ones such as fruits, vegetables and meats. If your symptoms of gluten intolerance disappear when you eat gluten-free, you are on the right path to feeling better and repairing your body.