Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance
And What to Do About Them
The symptoms of gluten intolerance are quite varied. They can begin to show up at any age and can be brought on or aggravated by stress. It turns out that gluten intolerance may be much more wide spread than most people realize. Sometimes the damage is done without victims even knowing it.
Here is a list of the specific symptoms of gluten intolerance and its more severe form, celiac disease.
- Attention-deficit disorder and hyperactivity
- Cramps, tingling and numbness
- Dental health problems
- Fat in stools (poor digestion)
- Gastro-intestinal problems such as bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gas or pain
- Growth slowed in infants and children
- Headaches and migraines
- Infertility, irregular menstrual cycles, miscarriage
- Irritability and behavioral changes
- Joints and bones that ache
- Nutritional deficiencies from malabsorption
- Weight loss or gain that is otherwise unexplained
If you have those symptoms you might want to read this background about the symptoms of gluten intolerance and what causes them. Take note that these symptoms are very similar to those for these conditions: chronic fatigue, Crohn's disease, intestinal infections, iron deficiency and irritable bowel syndrome.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in barley, rye and wheat and products made from them. Oats do not normally contain gluten or have very much less but may pick it up from being processed along with gluten-containing grains. Corn, millet and rice are naturally gluten-free.
Since grains (especially wheat) are used in so many products, gluten can be found in many of these:
Gluten may also be found in processed foods including:
- baking products
- brown rice syrup
- modified food starch
- soy sauce
- vegetable protein
So what is it about gluten that leads to symptoms of gluten intolerance? Many people can consume gluten and not show problems. But in other people, the gluten will damage the intestinal lining causing destruction of the villi that are important for absorption of nutrients. Thus it can lead to many other problems from the resulting lack of needed vitamins, minerals and even calories. In some people, there can develop an autoimmune response as the immune system that is reacting to the gluten begins to attack body tissues.
How common are the symptoms of gluten intolerance and celiac disease?
Celiac disease now occurs in 1 in 133 people in the U.S. It is a very aggressive form of gluten intolerance that can lead to significant damage of the gut. It is growing very rapidly and there are now even celiac summer camps for children.
The less-serious gluten intolerance or at least predisposition to is estimated to affect as much as 30-40% of the U.S. population. The symptoms may turn up only later in life or appear during period of significant stress.
What are the methods of testing?
Saliva testing is the least reliable as it is not that reliable when looking for antibodies related to gluten.
Blood tests are used to look for antibodies and when found is followed up with an intestinal biopsy to assess damage to the gut.
Stool tests are the best way to assess for gluten intolerance as antibodies can be more reliably detected in the stool.
Some suggest you should be tested for gluten intolerance even if you do not have the symptoms of gluten intolerance. There are a few ways to get tested; saliva, blood or stool.
Protect yourself from the symptoms of gluten intolerance.
Get tested for gluten intolerance. Gluten affects many aspects of health. It can even affect brain function and may often be attributed simply to growing older. It is actually unfortunate that the early symptoms aren't more serious and definite because then it would get more attention. A person can have a low level of gluten intolerance and be affected without attributing it to the real cause.
Go on a gluten-free diet or if you do not have symptoms but just want to avoid the symptoms of gluten intolerance cut down on gluten-containing foods - see the lists above. Remember also that wheat-free does not mean gluten-free
What about sprouting?
While sprouting does lessen the amount of gluten it will not completely eliminate it and sprouted glutinous grains will still pose a risk for people with gluten intolerance or Celiac disease. The grass of grains is gluten-free for approximately the first 10-14 days of germination/growth. So if you are consuming the grass only before 10 days it would be gluten-free. Sprouted grains such as used in sprouted breads would still contain some (although less) gluten as the grain's kernel attached to the growing leaves is also used.
If you are celiac and choose to ingest a grains-based green drink you should ensure that the company tests their products thoroughly to ensure that they are gluten-free.
Other Disease Connections
A major problem associated with symptoms of gluten intolerance is that often there are no immediate symptoms when eating gluten - about 75% notice no digestive symptoms, and some notice very little symptoms at all. Unfortunately, there is still a possibilty of developing autoimmune diseases, nervous system damage and intestinal cancer and, in some cases, there is little warning before diagnosis of a disease.
There is a known association between gluten and depression in children and adults. Diagnosing gluten sensitivity early in life and/or decreasing exposure to gluten could minimize the risk of the needless suffering of depression and use of dangerous anti-depressants drugs.
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