The 14 most common signs of gluten intolerance

Gluten intolerance is a fairly common problem.

It is characterized by adverse reactions to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.

Celiac disease is the most severe form of gluten intolerance.

It is an autoimmune disease that affects around 1% of the population and can cause damage to the digestive system (1, 2).

However, 0.5 to 13% of people may also have sensitivity to non-celiac gluten, a milder form of gluten intolerance that can still cause problems (3, 4).

Both forms of gluten intolerance can cause generalized symptoms, many of which have nothing to do with digestion.

Here are the top 14 signs and symptoms of gluten intolerance.

Most common signs gluten intolerant

The swelling is when you feel that your belly is swollen or full of gas after eating. This can make you feel miserable (5).

Although swelling is very common and can have many explanations, it can also be a sign of gluten intolerance.

In fact, feeling bloated is one of the most common complaints of people sensitive or gluten intolerant (6, 7).

One study showed that 87% of people who suspected sensitivity to non-celiac gluten experienced swelling (8).

Bottom line: Swelling is one of the most common symptoms of gluten intolerance. It implies that the belly swells after eating.

2. Diarrhea, constipation and malodorous stools.

Occasionally, diarrhea and constipation are normal, but it can be a concern if it occurs regularly.

These are also a common symptom of gluten intolerance.

People with celiac disease experience inflammation in the intestine after eating gluten.

This damages the intestinal lining and leads to poor absorption of nutrients, which results in significant digestive discomfort and frequent diarrhea or constipation (9).

However, gluten can also cause digestive symptoms in some people who do not have celiac disease (10, 11, 12, 13).

More than 50% of people sensitive to gluten experience diarrhea regularly, while approximately 25% experience constipation (8).

In addition, people with celiac disease may experience pale stools and bad smells due to poor absorption of nutrients.

Frequent diarrhea can cause some important health problems, such as electrolyte loss, dehydration and fatigue (14).

Bottom line: People intolerant to gluten usually experience diarrhea or constipation. Patients with celiac disease may also experience pale, foul-smelling stools.

3. Abdominal pain

Abdominal pain is very common and can have many explanations.

However, it is also the most common symptom of gluten intolerance (13, 15, 16).

Up to 83% of people with gluten intolerance experience abdominal pain and discomfort after eating gluten (8, 17).

Bottom line: Abdominal pain is the most common symptom of gluten intolerance, experienced by up to 83% of people with gluten intolerance.

4. headaches

Many people experience headaches or migraines from time to time.

Migraines are a common condition, with 10-12% of the western population experiencing them regularly (18, 19).

Interestingly, studies have shown that individuals with gluten intolerance may be more prone to migraines than others (20, 21).

If you have regular headaches or migraines without apparent cause, you may be sensitive to gluten.

Bottom line: Individuals intolerant to gluten seem to be more prone to migraines than healthy people.

5. feeling tired

Feeling tired is very common and is usually not related to any disease.

However, if you constantly feel very tired, then you should explore the possibility of an underlying cause.

Individuals intolerant to gluten are very prone to fatigue and fatigue, especially after eating foods that contain gluten (22, 23).

Studies have shown that 60 to 82% of people with gluten intolerance tend to experience fatigue and fatigue (8, 23).

In addition, gluten intolerance can also cause iron deficiency anemia, which in turn will cause more fatigue and lack of energy (24).

Bottom line: Feeling extremely tired is another common symptom, affecting approximately 60-82% of people with gluten intolerance.

6. Skin problems

Gluten intolerance can also affect your skin.

A skin condition with blisters called dermatitis herpetiformis is the cutaneous manifestation of celiac disease (25).

All those with the disease are sensitive to gluten, but less than 10% of patients experience digestive symptoms that indicate celiac disease (25).

In addition, several other skin diseases have shown an improvement in a gluten-free diet. These include (26):

  • Psoriasis: An inflammatory disease of the skin characterized by peeling and reddening of the skin (27, 28, 29).

  • Alopecia areata: An autoimmune disease that appears as hair loss without scars (28, 30, 31).

  • Chronic urticaria: Skin condition characterized by recurrent, itchy, pink or red lesions with pale centers (32, 33).

Bottom line: Dermatitis herpetiformis is the manifestation of the skin of celiac disease. Several other skin diseases can also be improved with a gluten-free diet.

7. depression

Depression affects about 6% of adults each year. The symptoms can be very disabling and involve feelings of hopelessness and sadness (34).

People with digestive problems seem to be more prone to both anxiety and depression, compared to healthy people (35).

This is especially common among people who have celiac disease (36, 37, 38, 39).

There are some theories about how gluten intolerance can lead to depression. These include (40):

  • Abnormal levels of serotonin: Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that allows cells to communicate. It is commonly known as one of the "happiness" hormones. Reduced amounts have been linked to depression (37, 41).

  • Gluten exorphins These peptides are formed during the digestion of some of the gluten proteins. They can interfere with the central nervous system, which can increase the risk of depression (42).

  • Changes in intestinal microbiota: Increasing amounts of harmful bacteria and decreasing amounts of beneficial bacteria can affect the central nervous system, which increases the risk of depression (43).

Several studies have shown that depressed individuals with self-reported gluten intolerance want to continue on a gluten-free diet because they feel better, although their digestive symptoms have not been resolved (44, 45).

This suggests that exposure to gluten alone can induce feelings of depression, regardless of digestive symptoms.

Bottom line: Depression is more common among people with gluten intolerance.

8. Unexplained weight loss

An unexpected weight change is often a cause for concern.

Although it may be due to several reasons, unexplained weight loss is a common side effect of undiagnosed celiac disease (46).

In a study of patients with celiac disease, two thirds had lost weight in the six months prior to diagnosis (17).

Weight loss can be explained by a variety of digestive symptoms, along with poor absorption of nutrients.

Bottom line: Unexpected weight loss can be a sign of celiac disease, especially if combined with other digestive symptoms.

9. Iron deficiency anemia

Iron deficiency anemia is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world and represents anemia in 5% and 2% of American women and men, respectively (47).

Iron deficiency causes symptoms such as low blood volume, fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches, pale skin and weakness (48).

In celiac disease, absorption of nutrients in the large intestine deteriorates, resulting in a reduced amount of iron that is absorbed from food (49).

Iron deficiency anemia may be among the first symptoms of celiac disease that your doctor notices (50).

Recent studies suggest that iron deficiency may be significant in both children and adults with celiac disease (51, 52).

Bottom line: Celiac disease can cause a poor absorption of iron in your diet, causing iron-deficiency anemia

10. Anxiety

Anxiety can affect 3-30% of people worldwide (53).

It implies feelings of worry, nervousness, restlessness and agitation. In addition, it often goes hand in hand with depression (54).

People with gluten intolerance appear to be more prone to anxiety and panic disorders than healthy people (39, 55, 56, 57, 58).

In addition, one study showed that up to 40% of people with self-reported gluten sensitivity reported experiencing anxiety on a regular basis (8).

Bottom line: Individuals intolerant to gluten seem to be more prone to anxiety than healthy individuals.

11. Autoimmune disorders

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that causes your immune system to attack your digestive tract after consuming gluten (59).

Interestingly, having this autoimmune disease makes it more prone to other autoimmune diseases, such as autoimmune thyroid disease (60, 61).

In addition, autoimmune disorders of the thyroid may be a risk factor for developing emotional and depressive disorders (62, 63, 64).

This also makes celiac disease more common in people who have other autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, autoimmune liver diseases, and inflammatory bowel disease (61).

However, sensitivity to non-celiac gluten has not been associated with an increased risk of autoimmune disorders, malabsorption or nutritional deficiencies (65, 66).

Bottom line: People with autoimmune diseases such as celiac disease are more likely to get other autoimmune diseases, such as thyroid disorders.

12. Joint and muscle pain

There are many reasons why people experience joint and muscle pain.

There is a theory that people with celiac disease have a genetically sensitive or overexcited nervous system.

Therefore, they may have a lower threshold to activate sensory neurons that cause pain in the muscles and joints (67, 68).

In addition, exposure to gluten can cause inflammation in people sensitive to gluten. Inflammation can cause widespread pain, even in the joints and muscles (8).

Bottom line: Gluten intolerant individuals commonly report pain in the joints and muscles. This is possibly due to a nervous system that is too sensitive.

13. Numbness of legs or arms

Another surprising symptom of gluten intolerance is neuropathy, which involves numbness or tingling in the arms and legs.

This condition is common in people with diabetes and vitamin B12 deficiency. It can also be caused by toxicity and alcohol consumption (69).

However, individuals with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity seem to have an increased risk of experiencing numbness of arms and legs, compared to healthy control groups (70, 71, 72).

Although the exact cause is unknown, some have linked this symptom with the presence of certain antibodies related to gluten intolerance (73).

Bottom line: Gluten intolerance can cause numbness or tingling in the arms and legs.

14. Brain Fog

"Brain fog" refers to the feeling of not being able to think clearly.

People have described him as being forgetful, having difficulty thinking, feeling cloudy and having mental fatigue (74).

Having a "cloudy mind" is a common symptom of gluten intolerance, which affects up to 40% of people with gluten intolerance (8, 75, 76).

This symptom may be caused by a reaction to certain antibodies in gluten, but the exact reason is unknown (77, 78).

Bottom line: Individuals intolerant to gluten may experience brain fog. It implies having difficulty thinking, mental fatigue and forgetfulness.

Bring the message home

Gluten intolerance can have numerous symptoms.

However, keep in mind that most of the symptoms in the above list may also have other explanations.

However, if you regularly experience some of them without an apparent cause, then you may be reacting negatively to gluten in your diet.

In this case, you should consult with a doctor or try to temporarily remove gluten from your diet to see if it helps.

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