For many people, going gluten-free is something of a lark. Avoiding bread products feels like a positive step toward healthy eating, at least until the craving for bagels became too hard to bear. But for other people, consuming gluten could lead to serious health problems. In fact, the signs you should actually avoid gluten are important for everyone to know. Like many medical maladies, there's a ton of misinformation about gluten intolerance circulating around.
First, what is gluten? According to the Celiac Disease Foundation (CDF), gluten refers to the proteins in wheat, rye, and barley that help "glue" foods together and maintain their shape. As further noted by the CDF, breads and baked goods often contain gluten. But more unexpected sources, such as salad dressings or even food coloring, may also use gluten.
Next, the potential health issues attributed to gluten may be somewhat surprising. For instance, people who should avoid gluten may not necessarily be dealing with celiac disease (although that is often a component of gluten intolerance). According to The University of Chicago Medicine Celiac Disease Center, persons who have sensitivities to gluten (AKA wheat intolerance syndrome), may have non-celiac gluten sensitivity or even a wheat allergy. So to put it broadly, people who have an autoimmune disorder (celiac disease), stress response (gluten intolerance), or even food allergies (wheat allergy) may all have difficulty digesting gluten.
So is gluten a bad thing for everybody? Not necessarily. According to a 2015 study in Digestion, approximately 86 percent of 392 patients who believed they experienced a form of gluten sensitivity actually showed no issues with gluten products at all. Self-diagnosis can be tricky like that, and gluten sensitivity is relatively rare. In fact, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, only around 1 percent of the U.S. population has celiac disease. What's more, only about 0.4 percent of people have a case of wheat allergy that's diagnosed by a physician, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. And non-celiac gluten sensitivities are still being studied. Basically, you are statistically unlikely to have a sensitivity to gluten. That said, if any of these signs ring true, then you may want to check in with your physician for a proper diagnosis.
1. Your Mouth Or Throat Swell & Feel Irritated
For what it's worth, symptoms of food allergies tend to pop up almost immediately after consuming the offending food. If you have a wheat allergy, then you may experience symptoms such as itching and irritation in your mouth or throat, as noted by the Mayo Clinic. Because these signs will happen within minutes or hours of consuming food with gluten, you may be able to draw conclusions about the culprit food pretty quickly.
2. You Break Out In Hives
Sometimes your allergic reaction may show up on your skin. As noted by Healthline, sometimes people with a wheat allergy may experience hives or a rash after consuming gluten. This is a good sign to get checked out by a doctor ASAP.
3. You Suffer From Nausea & Abdominal Pain
It makes sense that a food allergy would attack your gut. And as noted by the Gluten Intolerance Group, symptoms of a wheat allergy may include nausea and abdominal pain. If this occurs, especially in conjunction with other symptoms of a wheat allergy, then you may want to visit your physician for testing and diagnosis.
4. Your Eyes Water and Itch
It looks like food allergies can affect many parts of your body. As noted in Kids Health, reactions to a wheat allergy may include swollen, itchy eyes. Take note if this happens to you.
5. Your Throat Tightens
This is the worst-case scenario of an allergic reaction to wheat allergies. According to the Mayo Clinic, some people may experience anaphylaxis after ingesting wheat, which includes a tightness in the throat, severe breathing problems, dizziness, and a fast heartbeat. Anaphylaxis is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention.
6. You Feel Mental Fatigue
Next, the symptoms of non-celiac gluten sensitivities (NCGS) can appear in many ways. For instance, if your brain feels foggy and slow after eating gluten, then it may point to NCGS, as noted in Healthline. If you suspect your afternoon fatigue is something stronger than the average 3:00 p.m. slump, then it may be time for a doctor's visit.
7. Your Limbs Feel Numb
This is unsettling. But as noted in Beyond Celiac, individuals with non-celiac gluten sensitivities may experience numbness in their fingers, arms, or legs. What's more, the symptoms may not appear until several hours, or even days, after the gluten has been ingested.
8. You Experieince General Fatigue
For some people, coping with NCGS means feeling like they've been run over by a truck. As noted by the Canadian Celiac Association, one symptom of NCGS is general bodily fatigue. It's another potential symptom to keep in mind if you suspect this is the cause of your maladies.
9. You Have Major Headaches
Sure, the basic headache may be caused by about a thousand different things. But as noted in Very Well, headaches, especially in combination with other common symptoms, may point to NCGS. And on a more horrifying note, gluten-induced migraines may even occur, as further noted by Very Well.
10. Your Joints Are Inflamed
For some people, the symptoms may seriously get under their skin. According to Healthline, painful, inflamed joints may be another symptom of non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Although a lot about NCGS is still being studied, your doctor can provide advice on diagnosing and managing this condition.
11. You Deal With Abdominal Bloating & Pain
As far as celiac disease is concerned, the symptoms often show up in the GI tract. In fact, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation, bloating and abdominal pain are common symptoms of celiac disease. If your stomach troubles are out of control, then a trip to your physician for testing may be in order.
12. You're Anemic
Feeling fatigued? According to the Mayo Clinic, anemia from iron deficiency is a common sign of celiac disease. And as noted by WebMD, symptoms of anemia include fatigue, dizziness, and an unusually rapid heartbeat.
13. You Have A Family History Of Celiac Disease
This is a big one. Because celiac disease has a genetic component, you are at a greater risk for it if your close relatives have already been diagnosed, according to Beyond Celiac. Although you aren't necessarily destined to have the condition if your parent has it, for instance, your likelihood of getting celiac disease is greater than that of the general population.
14. You Suffer From Dermatitis Herpetiformis
Gluten sensitivities may show up in some unusual ways. For instance, some people may experience dermatitis herpetiformis, or bumps and blisters, as a result of gluten ingestion, as noted by the Celiac Disease Foundation. It may also be very itchy.
15. You Have Arthritis
For some celiac patients, the fun just doesn't stop. And as explained in WebMD, arthritis is sometimes a symptom of celiac disease. If this, or any other, of these symptoms hits home, then a trip to your physician for further analysis is a good call.