Gluten intolerance is a complicated issue. Research continues to unveil new discoveries about reactions to gluten and how they affect peoples´ lives.
Using buzz words to sell food items is a popular tactic for gaining sales for companies. Phrases such as low fat, gluten-free, superfood, and all natural line the shelves of food stores.
Do these words apply to everyone in terms of benefiting health? Do people talk themselves into being gluten-intolerant because marketers make it sound like a healthy option, for example, or is eliminating gluten not necessary for everyone? Gluten intolerance is a serious and real issue, affecting many people.
Gluten is a protein that is commonly found in grains and wheat, among other foods.
Gluten gives bread dough its rubbery and sticky texture, and is also used as an ingredient in foods such as soy sauce, beer, and even pickles.
Gluten has always been a large factor in our diets, but it can cause severe health issues to some people.
What Health Issues Does Gluten Cause?
There are two types of health issues that gluten may cause for people who are affected with the sensitivity to the protein. These are gluten intolerance and a less severe gluten sensitivity.
Gluten intolerance is an autoimmune digestive genetic disease, also referred to as celiac disease.
With celiac disease, gluten causes one’s body to have an autoimmune response that inflames and damages the small intestine’s lining, which can cause pain and make it difficult for your body to absorb necessary vitamins and nutrients from food. People who suffer from celiac disease need to always avoid gluten.
This disease is becoming increasingly common. A study in the Gastroenterology Journal reports that in the past 50 years, celiac disease has gone from affecting 0.15% of people to 0.83% of people in 2009, and now that number has risen to 1% of the population.
Celiac disease is a serious disorder that can cause other health problems such as malnutrition, infertility, and bowel cancer. Here are 13 early signs of gluten intolerance in adults.
Diarrhea is a common symptom of many diseases, so this should only be seen as a puzzle piece to the factors of gluten intolerance. Serious diarrhea may occur if someone who is intolerant to gluten eats it, and therefore their body has a reaction.
Serious diarrhea can dehydrate your body by the loss of electrolytes and water. If diarrhea gets to the point where it causes severe stomach pain, fever, rectal pain, a bloody stool, or any signs of dehydration, it is important to see a doctor to find the root of the issue.
2. Neurological Issues
Neurological problems involve the nerves, brain, and spine. These are often serious issues that do not have a cure. According to the Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology, several neurological issues have the common factor of celiac disease.
For example, celiac disease may result in dementia and impaired cognitive function. It may also result in numbness in the extremities, also known as peripheral neuropathy.
Discoordination may also be an issue with celiac disease. If there is no other cause for these symptoms, it is important to test for celiac disease, because it may be the underlying issue.
3. Joint Pain
People with gluten intolerance have higher levels of joint pain than average. These pains are most commonly felt in the back, knees, wrists, hips, and shoulders.
In some cases of celiac disease, joint pain may occur prior to digestive symptoms. However, because joint pain is common in aging people, it may not trigger you to think about testing for celiac disease.
Because the damage to the small intestines in celiac disease causes malnutrition, joint pain may come from nutritional deficiencies. Joint pain may also come from the inflammation that gluten provokes in the people who are affected.
4. Bloating, Constipation, and Gas
None of these symptoms are easy to deal with in everyday life. They may also become serious if constipation goes on for too long.
Celiac disease causes these digestive and gastrointestinal problems. One way to test for gluten intolerance is to cut out gluten completely and see if there is rapid and substantial improvement in bloating, constipation, and gas.
If these symptoms are lost with the elimination of gluten in the diet, it is a tell tale sign that the gluten is causing the issues.
It can be assumed that most adults are tired at one point of another. With long work hours in addition to other responsibilities and commitments, it is easy to lose much-needed sleep.
A less common issue is severe fatigue. This is when you can not seem to get out of bed to do anything and you have lost all motivation to put for energy.
Fatigue and tiredness are two different things. With fatigue, one often has difficulty concentrating, experiences dizziness, has a hard time starting tasks, may faint on occasion, and experiences constant exhaustion. While this can be a symptom of many health issues, celiac disease is among them.
Like many of these other symptoms, a lot of people experience periods of their lives where they feel down in the dumps.
Depression goes a little further than some typical sadness by including insomnia, a loss of interest in everyday activities, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, and even feelings of guilt.
Depression is able to affect your health and mood in many ways. If left untreated, depression can lead to very severe consequences such as suicide.
Finding the cause of depression is important so it can be treated quickly before getting out of control. One culprit of depression may be celiac disease.
Psychology Today reports that celiac disease may cause depression through malabsorption of vitamins and nutrients from food.
Studies have shows that about 33% of people who suffer from celiac disease are also depressed. Teens with celiac disease are also more likely to be depressed than their gluten-friendly peers. The risk of depression in teens jumps from 7% to 31% with the addition of celiac disease.
Further research has suggested that about one-third or more of people with celiac disease also suffer from depression. You have to admit, that’s a pretty alarming amount.
Heartburn is a painful and uncomfortable feeling in the upper chest caused by the rising of stomach acid into the esophagus.
This may last for several hours, and is often caused by large meals that are high in oil and fat, such as pizza. It is not commonly known, however, that celiac disease can also result in heartburn.
Because people who are intolerant to gluten cannot properly absorb nutrients, this weakens body tissues, including the tissues in the esophagus. This makes the esophagus less tolerant to stomach acid, which in turn can result in heartburn.
8. Dental Issues
Gluten produces an autoimmune response in the body, which actually causes a reaction against a protein that produces tooth enamel. This may result in frequent dental problems, such as broken teeth, cavities, and tooth decay.
9. Skin Problems
Dermatitis herpetiformis is a rash on the skin that causes severe itch and blistering. This chronic condition is known to be the skin form of gluten intolerance. As with other symptoms, not everyone with celiac disease develops this skin disorder.
The symmetrical rash is typically present on the knees, elbows, and buttocks, appearing on both sides of the body. As the rash fades, there is a chance it will have caused the skin to lose pigmentation, leaving behind brown marks on the skin.
Having simple skin contact with a food containing gluten does not cause dermatitis herpetiformis, only with the ingestion of such a food.
In this case, the body produces antibodies that then travel throughout the bloodstream before depositing into the skin. This interaction causes a skin flare up.
10. Hormonal Imbalance
Women who suffer from hormonal imbalances can have several symptoms such as mood changes, weight changes, low libido, anxiety, depression, digestive problems, irritability, and fatigue.
Hormonal changes are common during times like menopause and pregnancy, but if for no other reason, they may be caused by celiac disease.
Hormonal changes may be a result of gluten intolerance. Even if you are not intolerant to gluten, but have hormonal problems, it may be beneficial to cut out gluten.
Sensitivity to gluten puts stress on the adrenal glands, which sit above the kidneys, acting as stress buffers for the body.
These glands create hormones that are used by the body to repair itself and deal with daily stressors. The adrenal glands also produce sex hormones in women as they age and begin menopause.
When the adrenal glands become exhausted, the body has a breakdown of its systems. The systems in the body are not able to function at an optimal level and they stop being able to repair themselves.
When body function begins to slow down, one may experience the symptoms of hormonal imbalance. During times of chronic stress, the adrenal glands produce stress hormones instead of sex hormones, such as progesterone.
This often leads to a dominance of estrogen, which can result in heavy bleeding, fibroids, irregular menses, endometriosis, depression, breast tenderness, and infertility.
If someone who is sensitive to gluten continues to eat foods containing gluten, the adrenal glands are put under chronic stress from constant inflammation of the intestines, leading to chronic adrenal exhaustion.
11. Sudden Weight Change
Suddenly losing or gaining a lot of weight with no change in everyday routine may be a sign of gluten intolerance. Weight loss is a classic sign of celiac disease, often due to diarrhea. If you have been losing weight for no particular reason, celiac disease may be the culprit.
However, in children celiac disease often causes weight gain. Up to 75% of children who suffer from celiac disease are either overweight or obese.
12. Mouth Ulcers
Aphthous stomatitis, also known as mouth ulcers or canker sores, are painful open wounds in or around the mouth.
These have been previously associated with both infections and stress, but now ulcers can be connected to gluten as well. As the body’s immune response attacks its own tissue, mouth ulcers may occur.
These tiny, round can be caused by a variety of other issues as well, from stress to infections, but in some cases, they are a result of celiac disease.
13. Low Immune Function
Having a weak immune system can result in a high risk for other diseases such as cold and the flu. Celiac disease can easily result in malnutrition. Even if a celiac sufferer eats a healthy and balanced diet, the body does not absorb many of the food’s nutrients.
Nutrients in food is absorbed in the small intestine’s lining, however when a celiac sufferer consumes foods with gluten, the body has an autoimmune reaction of attacking the intestinal villi.
Eventually, the small, hair-like tentacles that line the small intestine become flattened, which leaves them unable to absorb nutrients.
A perfect diet does not matter if the villi in the intestines are destroyed by an untreated case of celiac disease. This will most likely result in malnourishment, which then leads to the risk of weight loss, anemia, infertility, and osteoporosis.
Additionally, children who have undiagnosed or untreated celiac disease are often short in stature due to malnutrition. Some common deficiencies in people with untreated celiac disease include iron, vitamin D, magnesium, calcium, vitamin B12, fatty acids, and folate.
Celiac Disease Treatment
There is not currently a cure for celiac disease. However, people who suffer from celiac disease can best treat themselves by cutting out every food and condiment that contains gluten.
Some cosmetics even contain gluten, so this is something else to watch out for. However, Scientific American reports that most people do not need to remove gluten from their diets.
While many Americans cut back on gluten due to the craze of gluten-free items, nutritionists say that people who do not do their research or carefully eat balanced meals, can create an unhealthy diet for themselves.
While one third of adults have now reported having the desire to cut back on gluten, this craze is seemingly increasing.
For most people, a gluten-free diet will provide no health benefits. This is due to the fact that whole grains, containing gluten, provide the body with fiber, vitamins and minerals. Alternatively, gluten-free foods are made with grains that have been refined, which lowers their level of nutrition.
People can eat a gluten-free diet that is healthy, but you need to know what you are doing, and many people who are following the gluten-free craze don’t.
People who cut out gluten may begin feel physically better due to the avoidance of desserts and junk foods, but that is not due to the loss of gluten in the diet, it is only due to being more conscious of eating whole foods that are low in carbohydrates and sugar.
Testing for Gluten Intolerance
To test for an intolerance to gluten, schedule a doctor’s appointment to have comprehensive blood work done. This will be able to sense the gluten intolerance, if it exists.
If the blood test results are negative, yet symptoms are still occurring, remember that some people are sensitive to gluten without being completely intolerant.
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity can cause a reaction from gluten that also results in similar unpleasant symptoms of the gastrointestinal system.
There is no test for non-celiac sensitivity to gluten. If it seems like this may be an issue, consider cutting out gluten for at least 21 days to see if symptoms improve.
This requires a complete lack of gluten in the diet, so it is important to check all labels and all ingredients in every food that is consumed.
Some hidden sources of gluten beyond wheat are rye, barley, bulgur, farro, matzo, oatmeal, seitan, malt vinegar, soy sauce, mayonnaise, and other common foods. It is important to do research before starting on a gluten free diet when looking to see if a sensitivity is present.
These are some symptoms that should be taken into consideration when celiac diseases is on the table. Be on the lookout for these symptoms before consulting a physician and having a blood test.
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