The problem of gluten intolerance, gluten allergy and celiac disease affects approximately 15% of the population of America. So, you may need to check out whether you actually have a gluten problem. Gluten is a type of protein most commonly found in certain cereals like wheat, rye and barley.
It is widely used as an additive in sauces, baked, canned and processed foods etc. Gluten is the element that makes bread stretchy and causes it to rise. Hence it is used in a vast variety of cakes, cookies as well as pasta, pizza etc.
The symptoms of gluten problem
You may have an allergic reaction to gluten or intolerance to it. In extreme cases, this gluten intolerance develops into celiac disease. This is an autoimmune condition where your digestive system fails to absorb the essential nutrients even if you ingest them. Gluten intolerance and allergy are more common. Whichever condition you have, you will need to properly identify this so that you can take appropriate steps.
Here are a few common symptoms which are seen to be associated with gluten intolerance and allergy:
- One of the most common, yet most difficult to identify symptoms of gluten problems is fatigue. You will feel extremely tired – especially after eating foods that contain gluten. However, fatigue may be caused by a vast range of extraneous factors. So, just because you feel tired does not mean that you are intolerant of gluten.
- Gluten intolerance is also suspected when there is sudden drastic change in weight – mostly weight loss. As your digestive system fails to absorb nutrients and process the gluten, you may experience consistent loss in weight.
- A huge range of digestive disorders begin to manifest in persons with gluten intolerance. You will feel bloating, indigestion, gas and constipation. Heartburns become common. You may also experience diarrhea. These may lead to diverticulitis. Fat appears in stool as a result of incomplete or poor digestion. All these culminate in significant weight loss.
- Related to the above are other symptoms like loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. Mouth ulcers may develop or you may feel irritation in the throat or the mouth.
- There are quite a few other symptoms which indicate gluten intolerance and allergy. Your skin may itch and break out in rashes as a reaction to gluten. Dizziness, fainting spells, difficulty in swallowing, deficiency of vitamins and minerals, hair loss etc are common.
- Headaches become frequent and attacks of migraine increase in frequency. Chest pains may also occur.
- Women may experience additional symptoms. The menstrual cycle may be disturbed and in some cases it may even lead to infertility. In pregnant women, gluten intolerance may affect the growth and development of the baby.
- Diabetes is aggravated.
- Bone density reduces.
- A number of dental problems develop.
- Osteoporosis and muscle disturbances increase in severity.
- Lactose intolerance may be caused.
- Gluten allergy also causes the manifestation or aggravation of a number of psychological and neurological disorders. These include schizophrenia, attention deficit disorder, anxiety and depression.
As seen from the list of symptoms stated above, these can be caused by a number of other factors in addition to gluten intolerance. So, it requires systematic investigation to determine exactly what is causing these symptoms and whether gluten intolerance may be a reason.
How to identify the symptoms of gluten intolerance?
Here are a few steps which you may follow in order to identify a condition of gluten intolerance:
- Watch your digestive health. Poor digestion is the most common fallout of a gluten allergy. If you observe symptoms like indigestion, bloating, gas, constipation, heartburn etc, chances are you are developing a gluten problem.
- Another common way to determine whether you have a gluten problem or not is to keep a close watch on your own energy levels after eating. If you have a gluten problem, your digestive system will spend a lot of energy fighting the effects of gluten. As a result, you will feel fatigued and lethargic immediately after your meal.
- Mental disturbances like irritability or depression are heightened after a meal in gluten intolerant individuals.
- Similarly, if you have a gluten problem, headaches may develop following a meal.
- There are a number of long term effects which you can carefully track to determine whether you have a gluten problem or not. Change in weight is one such indicator. If you are experiencing consistent long term fluctuations in weight without having changed your diet in any significant way, then you probably have a gluten problem.
- Similarly, gluten problem also causes long term changes in your mental health. Anxiety and depression and irritability may increase consistently.
- If there is persistence of allergies, rashes and problems like eczema, gluten problem may be a contributing factor. So, check the health of your skin, teeth and hair. Any long term decline may be caused by gluten intolerance.
- Women should take note of irregularity of menstrual cycle and whether a problem of infertility is developing.
- Once you observe all these symptoms, you can begin an elimination diet. Just carefully avoid all gluten containing foods for seven days. If gluten intolerance is indeed your source of problem, then you will see a definite reduction in the symptoms after a gluten free diet for a week.
- The final step to confirm whether you have a gluten problem or not is to carry out a simple diagnostic test. When you consult a doctor, he will first ask you to observe and record the symptoms. If you go to the doctor after you have already completed this step, a blood test will determine whether you have celiac disease. In order to determine a gluten allergy, a skin prick test is carried out.
If it is confirmed that you do have a gluten problem, your life is not over. Just a carefully constructed healthy diet without gluten can help you live a happy and healthy lifestyle.