Countless people are choosing to cut gluten from their diets as a healthier way to eat, but for some people abstaining from eating gluten is not a matter of choice. For people who suffer from gluten intolerance, consuming gluten can wreak havoc on their health with each bite (Be warned though, switching to a diet filled with gluten free products is not the perfect answer.)
How Do You Know If You Are Gluten Intolerant?
If you have noticed that consuming gluten rich foods such as bread or pasta don’t seem to agree with your system, or if you have otherwise unexplained health complaints, you may be wondering if a gluten intolerance is to blame.
What is Gluten Intolerance?
Gluten intolerance, or non-coeliac gluten sensitivity as it is also known, is a condition in which a person is unable to properly digest the gluten protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Though it is often used as an umbrella term to cover coeliac disease and wheat allergies, each condition is unique. Celiac disease refers to an autoimmune disease in which the body creates antibodies in response to the ingestion of gluten, while a wheat allergy involves an anaphylactic response to wheat. Gluten intolerance may present with similar symptoms, but does not have the same underlying pathology as the other two conditions.
What Are the Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance?
Gastrointestinal (GI) complaints are frequently considered to be the major warning signs of gluten intolerance, but gluten intolerance can affect your health and wellness in a multitude of ways, some that may surprise you to know have a gluten connection.
Some health experts, such as Wheat Belly author William H. Davis, point to evidence that gluten is hard for all people to digest to varying degrees. For those with gluten sensitivities, gluten is particularly hard to digest. Depending on the level of sensitivity one has, even a trace amount of gluten can trigger GI problems such as cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and/or nausea.
Gluten has been linked to being a trigger for headaches ranging from a dull ache to full blown migraine.
Lack of Energy:
Many people with an intolerance to gluten report frequently suffering from lethargy. The reason for this is likely multifaceted. First, the other symptoms caused by gluten intolerance may result in a poorer quality of sleep. Additionally, when the body is constantly having to fight to digest gluten it takes a significant amount of energy. Regardless of the cause, after removing gluten, many people with gluten intolerance report improved energy levels.
Gluten sensitivities can also manifest through skin problems. Acne, rashes, and eczema are among the most common skin complaints from people suffering from gluten intolerance.
Research on the connection between gluten sensitivity and emotional health is still in its infancy, but many people (including researchers) are seeing evidence of a strong link. Scientists know that the brain and gut are closely linked. Anxiety, irritability, depression, and more may improve in individuals with gluten intolerance when gluten is removed from the diet. While diet is not a replacement for proper mental health care, it may prove to be a key component in proper care.
How is Gluten Intolerance Diagnosed?
Though some companies sell tests marketed as being able to detect gluten sensitivities, to date there is no widely accepted test for diagnosing gluten sensitivity. In large part, gluten intolerance is determined by an exclusionary diagnoses. If tests for celiac disease and wheat allergy are both negative, excluding them as problems, yet symptoms persist, a gluten intolerance may be the problem.
Additionally, elimination diets may help people determine if they are gluten intolerant. Patients remove all sources of gluten from their diets for a minimum of two to four weeks, if symptoms improve, a gluten intolerance may be presumed.
How is Gluten Intolerance Treated?
If you suspect that you suffer from gluten intolerance, you may be wondering what can be done to treat the problem. The good news is that no medications are required to treat the problem. Gluten intolerance can be treated entirely through dietary changes. By cutting gluten completely out of your diet, the body will begin to heal itself. Though full improvement can take up to several months, most people begin to see some level of improvement almost immediately.