You’ve probably heard about “gluten-free” diets. Maybe you know someone who adheres to a gluten-free lifestyle. But do you know what makes somebody cut out gluten (a compound of proteins found in wheat, barley, spelt, oats and rye) from their diets?
The culprit is usually a gluten intolerance. When someone has an intolerance to gluten, his or her immune system views gluten as a foreign substance and mounts an attack.
The term “gluten intolerance” covers many disorders: celiac disease (autoimmune disorder), wheat allergy (immunological reaction) and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (reaction to gluten in the absence of celiac disease) are the most common.
If left undiagnosed, what begins as relatively benign GI symptoms can turn into more serious long-term problems including vitamin deficiencies, osteoporosis, joint issues, nervous system disorders, and neurological disorders like headaches, depression and anxiety.
Typically, symptoms associated with gluten intolerance include gas, bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal pain; however, some symptoms reach beyond the GI system and can go unnoticed for years.
Here are 8 lesser-known warning signs that you may have a gluten intolerance. It is always best to get tested to know for sure.
Brain Fog: If you’re feeling like you can’t focus or that you aren’t as sharp as usual, you may have a gluten intolerance. Many people with gluten-related issues describe this brain fog as trouble concentrating, poor memory, disorientation, and confusion. Studies have shown that the elimination of gluten from your diet can improve cognition.
Depression: More evidence is pointing to a link between gluten sensitivity and mental health issues, including depression. One recent clinical trial showed a significant increase in depression scores amongst participants who consumed gluten, despite no change in GI symptoms.
Frequent Infections: Frequent colds, sinus infections, urinary tract infections, etc. may be a sign of gluten problems. Gluten intolerance causes damage to the GI system, which houses much of the body’s immune system. With fewer antibodies, your body doesn’t have all the defenses to fight off infections and you may get sick more often.
Joint and Muscle Pain: Aches and pains in the joints and muscles could be another sign that your body is having trouble with gluten. Foods containing gluten are considered to be inflammatory. Gluten can trigger an inflammatory response, affecting joints and muscles throughout the body, not just in the gut.
Skin Issues: Gluten can contribute to a variety of skin issues, from eczema to a rash known as dermatitis herpetiformis (DH). DH has been strongly linked to gluten sensitivity and causes pain, blistering, and extreme itchiness. It most commonly appears on elbows, knees, and buttocks and is usually symmetrical.
Infertility: About 15% of infertility cases can be attributed to something other than biological factors. There is also a prevalence of celiac disease amongst infertile women. Experts agree that fertility increases slightly when gluten is eliminated from the diet.
Dental Problems: Due mostly to poor absorption of calcium, people with a gluten sensitivity tend to make more trips to the dentist every year, yet dental problems like cavities and tooth decay are often overlooked. Look out for “symmetric enamel defects” which are most noticeable on the first molars and permanent incisors. These issues are highly specific to celiac disease, especially in children, and can be a silent symptom of gluten sensitivity.
Neurological Issues: Neurological deficits such as poor balance, poor coordination, and a lack of sensation and motor control may be more signs of a gluten intolerance.
Having one or a few of these symptoms could be a sign of a gluten sensitivity, or they could be nothing. If you notice a pattern and this lists hits a little too close to home, then it’s likely you have a sensitivity to gluten.
If you think you may have a gluten sensitivity, it is strongly advised that you get tested for gluten intolerance. There are two ways to determine if you should start a gluten free diet. One is a genetic test that will tell you if you have the ability to have gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. The other is to test the antibodies to gluten, wheat, gliadin, glutenin and the transglutaminase enzymes associated with gluten. If you want to be tested to see if the antibodies to gluten and its breakdown components, this needs to be done before switching to a gluten-free diet. Testing requires the presence of gluten in your system to properly diagnose an intolerance. To schedule a gluten test to see if you have a gluten sensitivity, contact Lisanne Wellness Center today.