Wellness Watch: Gluten Sensitivity Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore
Wheat, rice, and maize are the three most widely consumed grains on the planet. These foods, while not very nutrient dense, are high in starch which is crucial to feeding the world's growing population. Unfortunately, wheat (the United States main starch), barley and rye all contain gluten. Watching for gluten sensitivity symptoms will help you learn how your diet affects you and what are actually the healthiest foods for your body.
- Even if you don't have celiac disease you might still suffer from a gluten intolerance.
- There are several symptoms that your body will display if your gut isn't digesting gluten.
- For many, cutting out gluten can improve your skin, energy, and overall gut health.
The Gluten Issue
In 1953 the first study confirming malabsorption after wheat consumption in patients with celiac disease was published. Since then, there has been tons of research into the effects of gluten. An article by US News in 2015 reported that about 1% or 3 million Americans have celiac disease, a hereditary autoimmune condition that requires the complete avoidance of gluten. Additionally 6% or 18 million people suffer from gluten sensitivity symptoms. Prevalence rates of gluten intolerance are higher for women and those from urban backgrounds.
Despite the percent of people who suffer from gluten sensitivity symptoms being fairly low, the market for gluten-free items has exploded. Almost half of Americans now believe that gluten-free options are healthier, when the opposite is usually true. Highly processed gluten-free food options often contain more fat, calories, sugar and sodium than traditional foods because of the extra processing to remove the gluten and add flavor.
Before you cut out gluten for “health reasons” you should double check that you actually do have gluten sensitivity symptoms.
Some of most common foods and drinks containing gluten include:
- Pastries and baked goods
- Pancakes, waffles, and crepes
- Malt beverages
The term “gluten intolerance” includes three different conditions: CD (celiac disease), allergy to wheat (WA) and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). CD and WA each have specific genetic origins that have been extensively studied. A blood test can be used to detect either of these conditions. NCGS is not as easy to pin down. However, the symptoms for each condition are fairly easy to identify:
Common CD Symptoms
- Diarrhea, Constipation and Smelly Poops - After eating gluten, people with celiac disease have inflammation in their small intestine. This causes damage to the gut lining and poor nutrient absorption, resulting in severe digestive discomfort and recurrent diarrhea or constipation. Diarrhea on a regular basis can result in electrolyte loss, dehydration, and weariness, among other things. Additionally due to the malabsorption of nutrients, those with CD may also experience pale, particularly foul smelling poops.
- Fatigue - Celiac disease is also connected to an increased risk of iron deficiency anemia, which affects the body's capacity to create healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells are responsible for the transport of oxygen to the brain and muscles, without them functioning properly (or in a large enough number), fatigue will shortly follow.
- Unexplained weight loss - due to inability to properly absorb nutrients
- Arm and Leg Numbness - Neuropathy, which causes numbness or tingling in the limbs and legs, is another unexpected sign of gluten sensitivity. Individuals with diabetes and vitamin B12 deficiency are more likely to develop this illness. Toxicology and persistent alcohol abuse might also cause this same symptom.
Common NCGS Symptoms
- Bloating - Bloating can be caused by many things and is related to many disorders. Yet when it comes to NCGS it is very common, one study showed that 87% of people who had suspected non-celiac gluten sensitivity experienced bloating
- Diarrhea and constipation - (after consuming gluten) more than 50% of gluten-sensitive individuals regularly experience diarrhea, while about 25% experience constipation
- Abdominal pain - Up to 83 percent of people with gluten intolerance report experiencing stomach pain and discomfort after ingesting gluten.
- Brain Fog - The feeling of being unable to think clearly is referred to as "brain fog." It's been described as being forgetful, having trouble thinking, feeling "cloudy," and suffering mental exhaustion. A "foggy mind" is a typical symptom of gluten intolerance, which affects approximately 40% of gluten-intolerant people.
Common WA Symptoms
- Skin rash - Wheat allergies, in particular, are known to cause hives. Itching, redness, and inflammation are all symptoms of this type of skin rash. This reaction usually occurs quickly after a person consumes wheat products and gradually fades over time.
- Digestive issues - nausea, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea bloating and indigestion
- Cold symptoms - WA symptoms can also include a runny nose, congested nasal passage and sneezing
Each of these can also contribute to a few different skin related issues including:
- Psoriasis - Scaling and reddening of the skin are common symptoms of this inflammatory illness.
- Alopecia areata - This is a non-scarring autoimmune condition that causes hair loss.
- Urticaria - Recurrent painful pink or red lesions with pale cores describe this skin disease.
A gluten-free diet in those suffering from CD, NCGS or WA has shown to improve each of these skin conditions.
If you suspect that you might be intolerant to gluten and are experiencing gluten sensitivity symptoms, cutting out certains foods is a good place to start. Before making any drastic dietary adjustments, you should obtain medical advice. It is critical that you take precautions to avoid negative health implications such as vitamin deficiencies which can lead to more serious health issues.
Written by Kiana St. Onge