In a world dominated by diverse culinary delights, Gluten has become a topic of interest and discussion across the globe. Lately, Gluten Sensitivity or tolerance has become extremely common, and about 1% to 6% of the population is dealing with the same.
This concern became more evident as the population started enjoying bread, pasta, and chappatis more commonly. Although the condition has existed for ages, the wave of healthy lifestyles in the 21st century made it more widespread.
The article looks closer at the signs and symptoms associated with Gluten Sensitivity.
What are the common Signs and Symptoms of Gluten Sensitivity?
Gluten Sensitivity is a condition where an individual gets sick upon eating gluten. Also known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity, it triggers an adverse reaction to gluten, particularly food items like wheat, barley, etc.
Although it doesn’t involve an autoimmune response, however, may manifest through a range of signs and symptoms. Here’s an overview of the same,
📌 Digestive Issues
Individuals who are sensitive to gluten may often experience abdominal pain, bloating, and similar discomfort right/ or sometimes after consuming gluten-rich food. Some individuals may also experience diarrhea, constipation, and similar changes in bowel habits.
📌 Unexplained tiredness or Fatigue
It is common to experience unusual tiredness even after resting enough. Non-celiac conditions are also associated with iron deficiency anemia, which manifests in decreased energy levels.
Some individuals report experiencing frequent headaches or even minor migraine attacks sometimes. In fact, some studies claim that individuals with gluten sensitivity may have more episodes of migraine attacks than others.
📌 Joint and Muscle Pain
This condition can trigger joint and muscle pain along with discomfort. The inflammation may likely occur around the arms and legs and can even lead to numbness in some cases. The symptoms sometimes may also resemble arthritis.
📌 Skin Issues
Skin problems like eczema, dermatitis herpetiformis, and psoriasis are some of the common signs.
📌 Irritability and Mood Disturbance
This sensitivity may contribute to mood swings and irritability. Some individuals may also suffer from anxiety and depressive symptoms manifesting through feelings of nervousness, worry, agitation, and unease.
📌 Unexplained Weight Changes
Although weight changes can occur due to various factors however the said intolerance may lead to unexpected gain or loss.
📌 Numbling and Tingling
In some cases, the sensitivity may start appearing with numbness or tingling in different body parts. However, this sign isn’t very common.
📌 Reproductive Issues
It is common for women, especially with excessive weight, to deal with menstrual irregularity or PMS.
📌 Neurological Symptoms
Some of the common neurological instances may include episodes of imbalance and dizziness.
Not only that but there are reports of brain fogging or concentration difficulties as well. The suffering individual may feel cloudy, experience mental fatigue, or even forget things easily.
How does it develop?
Although the exact causes of gluten sensitivity aren’t fully understood, here are some factors that might contribute,
- While it doesn’t involve an autoimmune response, the immune system might have a role to play. Some research even claims that the immune system reacts to gluten in a certain way that triggers symptoms. However, the reaction (or damage) isn’t similar to the intestinal damage in celiac disease.
- While there aren’t enough studies on the same, some theories suggest that this condition may be related to a leaky gut. As the intestinal lining allows substances to pass more quickly, it may trigger the immune response.
- Some individuals might have a family history of gluten sensitivity or related conditions.
- Another common reason that may trigger the sensitivity is the microbiome imbalance in the gut.
- Also, it isn’t always gluten alone, but some other components in wheat, like fructans may trigger the sensitivity.
Diagnosis and Treatment
There are no specific tests or biomarkers, so diagnosing gluten sensitivity can be challenging. The process may involve exclusion and evaluation of symptoms. Here’s an overview of the same,
- A detailed take on medical history and symptom evaluation.
- Blood tests for specific antibodies.
- Endoscopy with biopsy.
- Exclusion of celiac disease and wheat allergy.
- Elimination of diet for a few weeks or months to observe if the symptoms improve. A controlled reduction of gluten follows this.
- Symptom monitoring.
- Tests and imagining for lactose intolerance and more such.
After this evaluation, the treatment may proceed as follows,
- The medical professional may suggest eliminating food items that contain barley, rye, wheat, and other similar derivatives.
- Elimination of processed foods, including breads, pastas, and cereals.
- Careful reading of labels to identify and avoid any sources of gluten.
- Emphasizing a diet based on whole, natural foods, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins.
- Nutritional support, especially if the diet restriction is impacting the intake.
- Regular monitoring and follow-up with healthcare.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can it affect more than just the digestive system?
A. Yes, gluten sensitivity can manifest in a range of other ways apart from triggering the digestive system. Some of the other common triggers include joint and muscle pain, skin issues, headaches, etc.
2. What should I do if I’m exposed to gluten?
A. If you are gluten-sensitive and accidentally exposed to gluten at some point in time, here’s how you can manage the situation:
- Stay calm and do not panic, as stress can exacerbate the symptoms.
- Identify the source for future avoidance.
- Drink plenty of water to flush out your system.
- Drink ginger or peppermint tea or food that supports digestion.
- Rest when feeling fatigued.
- Lastly, monitor the symptoms and seek medical help immediately if they persist.
3. Can this condition be cured?
A. Since gluten sensitivity isn’t a chronic disease, it cannot be cured but only managed with an appropriate diet.
Understanding and monitoring the Gluten Sensitivity symptoms is crucial to managing this condition. The symptoms can manifest in several ways, as explained above; however, the severity and combination may vary amongst individuals.
Recognizing them is crucial for timely diagnosis and the right management. Ultimately, it is all about approaching the right diet with informed choices, leading to a well-managed and healthy lifestyle.
- Niland B, Cash BD. Health Benefits and Adverse Effects of a Gluten-Free Diet in Non-Celiac Disease Patients (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5866307/). Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2018 Feb;14(2):82-91.
- Skodje, G. I., et al. (2018). Fructan, rather than gluten, induces symptoms in patients with self-reported non-celiac gluten sensitivity.