In the past, the idea of a gluten intolerance was often dismissed by doctors, but recent research has found that gluten intolerance is a legitimate problem that needs to be addressed. Increasing evidence shows that gluten intolerance can cause a number of bothersome symptoms, although the exact biological cause of the condition has not been pinpointed by researchers yet. There’s not a test that can diagnose you with gluten intolerance, but it may be diagnosed in individuals who deal with specific symptoms after they consume gluten.
Gluten Intolerance vs Celiac Disease
It’s important to understand that there’s a big difference between gluten intolerance and celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that is actually triggered by consuming gluten. Just a tiny amount of gluten has the ability to cause severe damage to the small intestines. If you experience problems after eating gluten, it’s usually a good idea to be tested for celiac disease to rule it out.
Gluten intolerance or sensitivity is a more subtle problem that’s often diagnosed in patients who have symptoms after eating gluten, yet they do not have celiac disease. It’s thought that about 1-13% of the population. Individuals who are gluten intolerant can usually eat a small amount of gluten without a problem, but when they exceed their threshold, they begin experiencing unpleasant symptoms.
Common Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance
To diagnose gluten intolerance, physicians take into account the symptoms experienced by patients when they eat gluten. The most common symptoms of gluten intolerance include:
- Gastrointestinal and Digestive Problems – A variety of gastrointestinal and digestive problems may occur in individuals who have a gluten intolerance. Abdominal bloating, characterized by swelling and tightness in the abdomen is very common, and it occurs due to excess gas. Diarrhea is also very common in individuals who have a gluten intolerance, and this can lead to nutritional deficiencies and dehydration if it’s left untreated. Other issues may include queasiness, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and abdominal cramping.
- Neurological Issues – Some people also experience neurological issues after consuming gluten, which may include peripheral neuropathy, problems with balance, and dizziness. Mental fatigue or brain fog is very common in individuals who cannot tolerate gluten.
- Joint and Muscle Pain – In non-celiac gluten intolerance, joint and muscle pain is very common, and there’s even a link between gluten intolerance and fibromyalgia. Some patients who have arthritis, both osteoarthritis and inflammatory arthritis, report that eating gluten makes their joint pain worse.
- Itchy Skin and Rashes – Skin conditions are now becoming commonly associated with gluten intolerance, and many people with an intolerance experience skin lesions very similar to psoriasis and eczema, particularly on the back of the knees, back of the hands, and on the elbows. Most patients that experience skin rashes see improvement after just a month of being on a gluten-free diet.
- Fatigue – After eating gluten, individuals with an intolerance often feel fatigued.
- Headaches – Headaches, including migraines, may be a symptom of a gluten intolerance, particularly if the headaches occur right after eating.
Since there are no laboratory tests to diagnose gluten intolerance, doctors prefer to establish a real connection between the consumption of gluten and your symptoms. You may be asked to keep a symptom and food journal to help determine if gluten is causing your symptoms. If tests are normal for celiac disease and wheat allergies, then a look at your symptoms and their association to eating gluten can help with a diagnosis.
The Connection with FODMAP Intolerance
More and more studies are beginning to show that there may be a connection between gluten intolerance and what’s known as FODMAP intolerance, and often the two work together to cause the symptoms many patients experience. FODMAP stands for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, AND Polyols. FODMAPs have the ability to trigger many of the same symptoms as a gluten intolerance does, including irritable bowel syndrome, muscle and joint pain, migraines, auto immune diseases, and other gastrointestinal disorders.
Trying a Gluten Free Diet
In many cases, physicians suggest that individuals that may have a gluten intolerance try going on a gluten free diet for 30-60 days. During this trial period, it’s important to continue logging your symptoms to see if they begin going away. If the symptoms disappear during the gluten free diet, then there’s a good chance you’re really dealing with a gluten intolerance and you may need to continue the gluten free diet. Some people find that they are able to eventually incorporate some foods with gluten back into their diet slowly after spending six months going gluten free. However, before making any dietary changes, it’s a good idea to discuss this with your doctor.
If you have a gluten intolerance and you’re working hard to lose weight, you can find support from weight loss products that are gluten free. Fit Tea detox tea is gluten free and works be detoxifying the body and helping to support weight loss with EGCG. It works well as a one-time detox plan, or you can incorporate it into your daily diet to help boost your weight loss efforts.