What are the Signs of Gluten Sensitivity

According to research, up to 6 to 7%Woman Suffering from a Stomach Pain · Free Stock Photo of the U.S. population is gluten sensitive. If you feel ‘foggy’ or have abdominal pain and headaches, you likely have gluten sensitivity.

People with non-celiac gluten sensitivity experience symptoms similar to that of celiac disease. Understanding the signs and symptoms of gluten sensitivity is essential to differentiate between the two conditions. 

Here, we discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatments for gluten sensitivity:

An Overview of Gluten Sensitivity 

The term gluten sensitivity refers to a set of symptoms resembling celiac disease. However, individuals with gluten intolerance lack the antibodies and intestinal damage in celiac disease. 

People with gluten sensitivity cannot tolerate gluten and often experience abdominal pain, fatigue, and bloating. 

The underlying cause of gluten sensitivity is not yet understood. According to some researches, a particular carbohydrate present in many gluten-rich foods causes gluten sensitivity. Individuals with non-celiac gluten sensitivity are unable to absorb the carbohydrate. As a result, it remains in their digestion system, ferments, and causes abdominal discomfort.

Other studies reveal that wheat affects the digestive tract lining in people with gluten sensitivity. The digestive lining is responsible for keeping bacteria from spreading through your intestines. However, in people with NCGS, the lining does not work well and allows bacteria to attack their liver or blood.

What is Gluten? 

Gluten refers to a protein found in various grains, including wheat, rye, and barley. It is present in everyday foods and drinks, such as cereal, beer, pasta, oats, and more. 

Remember that gluten is also present in some vitamins, cosmetics, and medications.

What Foods Contain Gluten?

Avoid the following items if you have gluten sensitivity:

  • Barbecue sauce 
  • Barley 
  • Doughnuts 
  • Cakes 
  • Couscous 
  • Farina 
  • Farro 
  • Ketchup 
  • Malt vinegar 
  • Pastries 
  • Pancakes and waffles 
  • Potato bread 
  • Rye 
  • Soy sauce 
  • Triticale 
  • White bread 
  • Wheat 

Signs and Symptoms of Gluten Sensitivity 

Symptoms of non-celiac gluten sensitivity resemble those of gluten intolerance. Most patients complain about gastrointestinal and non-gastrointestinal symptoms, like bloating, abdominal cramps, and so on:

Gluten Sensitivity vs. Gluten Intolerance 

Some symptoms of NCGS overlap with celiac diseases, including:

  • Abdominal pain 
  • Anemia 
  • Anxiety 
  • Bloating 
  • Brain fog
  • Constipation 
  • Depression 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Fatigue 
  • Gas
  • Headache 
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Joint pain 
  • Nausea 
  • Skin rash 
  • Vomiting 

Symptoms of Gluten Sensitivity

Apart from the symptoms mentioned above, individuals with gluten sensitivity experience the following symptoms:

Gastrointestinal Symptoms 

Gastrointestinal symptoms may occur as a result of gluten-containing foods. You may have gluten sensitivity if you experience: 

  • Bloating- An uncomfortable and persistent feeling of fullness that surfaces after eating or drinking something rich in gluten. However, remember that various other foods and factors can also cause bloating
  • Abdominal Pain- Abdominal pain may occur due to the release of the bacteria residing on your stomach’s tract lining. If these bacteria leak through your body and attack your intestine, you’ll likely experience inflammation and severe abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea and Constipation- Both are symptoms related to gluten sensitivity, but it can happen for a variety of different reasons, such as wheat allergy or gluten tolerance 

Extra-intestinal Symptoms

In addition to gastrointestinal symptoms, people with gluten sensitivity report the following non-gastrointestinal signs:

  • Anemia 
  • Atopic disorders, including asthma and rhinitis 
  • Depression and anxiety 
  • Dermatitis, such as skin rash and eczema 
  • Fatigue and ‘foggy’ brain 
  • Fibromyalgia 
  • Folate deficiency 
  • Headache and migraines
  • Iron deficiency 

To ensure an appropriate diagnosis, start creating a food journal. Write down which foods trigger a particular symptom and show it to your healthcare doctor during your next visit. 

Should You Try an Elimination Diet?

In case you experience symptoms of gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance and feel that you have gluten sensitivity, it’s a wise idea to speak with your physician. In this way, you can rule out wheat allergy, gluten intolerance, and other similar conditions.

At the same time, try a temporary elimination diet to identify which gluten-containing foods trigger your symptoms. During your diet, your goal is to remove all gluten-containing foods for at least four weeks. 

At the end of your diet, start reintroducing gluten-containing foods to determine whether gluten is causing your symptoms.

What Gluten-Free Foods Should You Try? 

An excellent way of alleviating symptoms of gluten sensitivity is by following a gluten-free diet. In this diet, individuals have to follow an eating plan that excludes all foods containing gluten.

Gluten is typically present in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale. Apart from this, you need to look out for the following varieties of grain:

  • Durum 
  • Emmer 
  • Kamut
  • Spelt 

Instead, create a diet plan containing the following gluten-free foods:

  • Beans and lentils 
  • Brown rice 
  • Buckwheat 
  • Citrus foods
  • Dairy products, including cheese and yogurt 
  • Eggs
  • Green vegetables, such as cauliflower, broccoli, and more 
  • Millet 
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Peaches 
  • Some oats
  • Spinach 

How do You Get Tested for Gluten Sensitivity?

As of now, there are no methods to test or diagnose for non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Some doctors recommend saliva, stool, or blood testing. However, none of these tests are validated or accepted. 

Since no antibodies in the blood are sensitive or specific enough for NCGS, no antibodies in the patient’s saliva, stool, or blood can help screen or diagnose this condition.

Thus, currently, the only appropriate way of diagnosing non-celiac gluten sensitivity is through exclusion. Medical experts recommend you get tested for gluten intolerance, wheat allergy, and gluten allergy.

If all tests come back positive and you experience similar symptoms, you’re likely to have gluten sensitivity. After this, your doctor will help you curate a gluten-free diet. 

The Bottom Line

Plenty of research reveals that gluten sensitivity equally impacts the population. Unfortunately, the symptoms of gluten intolerance and gluten sensitivity are similar, which makes diagnosing NCGS tricky. 

Gluten-free diets can cause health risks; thus, it’s necessary that you discuss with your dietitian and nutritionists to build the perfect treatment plan.

 Sources

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/gluten-food-list#foods-to-eat

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/21622-gluten-intolerance

https://www.beyondceliac.org/celiac-disease/non-celiac-gluten-sensitivity/what-is-it/

https://celiac.org/about-celiac-disease/related-conditions/non-celiac-wheat-gluten-sensitivity/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/gluten-free-diet/art-20048530

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