Most grain diets especially wheat, barley and rye are enriched with proteins. Gluten is the major protein composite in all these grains and is why dough has a gooey texture when wet and chewy texture after it is baked. Although vital to most baking, gluten is the cause of much suffering to people, and unfortunately, many don’t even know they have a gluten allergy.
Gluten allergies are far more common than most people know. In fact, the exact number of people allergic to gluten is unknown because many people have no idea they are allergic to this common food item.
The reason people often don’t know they are allergic to gluten is because there is no one specific symptom to look for. In fact, researchers believe there may be as many as more than 250 gluten allergy symptoms!
To make diagnosing gluten allergies even more challenging, the symptoms of this allergy will vary from person to person. Instead of suspecting gluten as the cause, people often think their pain or discomfort is caused by something other than gluten.
Even though there may be hundreds of possible symptoms, there are some common symptoms experienced by most people. Sometimes only one symptom will be experienced by a person, while other people suffer from a combination of them.
The Most Common Gluten Allergy Symptoms
Below are some of the most common signs of a gluten allergy. Keep in mind that the list is by no means inclusive, and there may be additional, less common symptoms suffered by some people.
- Abdominal pain
- Abnormal stools
- Autoimmune disorders (i.e. lupus, rheumatoid arthritis)
- Difficulty thinking clearly
- Dry skin
- Inconsistent menstrual cycles
- Itchy skin
- Joint pain
- Mouth ulcers
- Nutrition malabsorption
- Poor sleep
- Runny nose
- Sinus problems
- Stunted growth or failure to thrive (in children)
- Tingling and numbness in legs and hands
- Thyroid problems (i.e. Hashimoto’s Disease)
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Weight loss
What To Do If You Have Some Of The Above Symptoms
First, if you have some of the above gluten allergy symptoms, do not jump to conclusions. As you can see, the symptoms of gluten allergies vary widely, and any of the signs above could be caused by any number of sources that have nothing to do with gluten.
The best thing to do if you are worried about having a gluten allergy is to see your doctor. Before your visit, keep a dietary journal where you document what you eat and any discomfort or pain you experience. This will be helpful to your doctor in determining if you truly do have gluten allergies.
In the event that you eventually are diagnosed definitively as having an allergy to gluten, there is a bright side. In almost every case, no medication is required to cure a gluten allergy. After a positive test, a simple gluten-free diet will solve the problem and may help you live a healthy life. This is also true for people who have gluten intolerance (aka gluten sensitivities) and celiac disease.
Adapting a gluten-free life is not without its challenges. You need to make sure you don’t cause other discomforts or problems as a result of removing gluten from your menu. You can read about some of the problems of a gluten-free diet in our article, Controlling Celiac Disease. Although the article focuses on celiac disease, eliminating gluten is the solution to physical problems both for celiacs and people allergic to gluten.
Some people try to self-diagnose themselves by going gluten-free on their own to see if their symptoms improve, but this is not a good idea. Yes, symptoms caused by gluten may improve, but eliminating gluten without proper planning and understanding the health implications of a gluten-free diet can be harmful. You should only stop eating gluten when advised to do so by your doctor, and with your doctor’s supervision.