Nutrition

What is gluten intolerance? How to recognize it?

Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. A person with gluten intolerance or sensitivity may experience pain and bloating after consuming foods containing gluten.

What is gluten intolerance?

A person with gluten intolerance may experience bloating, abdominal pain, and nausea. Gluten intolerance can cause similar symptoms to celiac disease, but it’s a different problem with different long-term effects. Symptoms of gluten intolerance can also resemble those of a wheat allergy or intestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome. People with celiac disease should avoid gluten because it can cause intestinal damage and prevent the body from absorbing essential nutrients.

People with wheat allergies should avoid all wheat products because consuming them can be life-threatening. Gluten intolerance can cause discomfort, but is unlikely to cause serious symptoms that require emergency care. Scientists have found evidence that environmental factors may play a role in celiac disease. However, experts aren’t sure exactly what causes gluten intolerance and how it’s linked to similar conditions. Some researchers have suggested that other wheat ingredients, not gluten, may cause some of these reactions.

Symptoms of gluten intolerance

A person with gluten intolerance experiences symptoms after consuming foods containing wheat, barley or rye.

These symptoms may be:

– tired
– bloating
– abdominal pain
– diarrhea
– nausea
– constipation
– a general feeling of malaise

The following symptoms may also appear

– anxiety
– headaches
– brain fog
– confusion
– numbness
– joint or muscle pain
– a skin rash

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See a doctor for any of the above symptoms. It is important to make a correct diagnosis, because many diseases affecting the intestine have similar symptoms. Severe abdominal pain can be a symptom of a serious medical condition, and anyone experiencing it should get immediate medical attention.

Gluten intolerance and wheat allergy

When a person is allergic to wheat, their body reacts to a protein contained in wheat, and this protein is not necessarily gluten. A wheat allergy can cause life-threatening symptoms. Anyone with this allergy who ingests wheat needs immediate medical attention.

A person with a wheat allergy may develop:

– hives
– swelling
– breathing difficulties, including wheezing

In severe cases, anaphylaxis may develop. This severe reaction causes the body’s blood pressure to drop, and the person may lose consciousness and stop breathing. While an allergic reaction requires urgent care, an intolerance is not immediately dangerous. However, it can cause discomfort and affect the general state of health of the person. Anyone who thinks they have an intolerance or allergy should consult a doctor.

Foods to Avoid

Glutens are proteins that allow wheat and other grains to absorb water, stick together, and remain viscous and elastic. They help give bread dough its texture and allow the dough to rise, for example.

Wheat, barley and rye contain gluten, which can be found in:

– breads
– cookies and biscuits
– Pasta
– products made from semolina
– some beers

Gluten can also be found in products that are not obviously grain-based, such as

– seasonings
– sauces
– the soups
– the canned goods
– spices

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What foods can I eat?

Foods that do not contain gluten are:

– fruits and vegetables
– plain meat, poultry and fish products
– pulses, such as beans and lentils
– rice
– quinoa
– potatoes
– certain oat products

A person looking to avoid gluten should be sure to check food labels carefully. It can also be a good idea to make soups, sauces and dressings at home. Products that say “gluten-free” on their label do not contain enough gluten to trigger symptoms of celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Manufacturers can remove gluten from wheat flour or use a substitute, such as oat or chickpea flour.

Diagnostic

If a person thinks that eating gluten is causing health problems, they should see a doctor. After asking the person about their symptoms and performing a physical exam, the doctor will likely run lab tests to rule out celiac disease and other gastrointestinal disorders. He can then recommend a plan that will allow him to monitor the person’s diet and any adverse effects.

Researchers have not yet found a specific biomarker of gluten intolerance. Currently, before diagnosing gluten intolerance, the doctor will have to rule out other possibilities.

Living with gluten intolerance

A person with gluten intolerance must eliminate gluten from their diet. However, occasional gluten consumption is unlikely to cause serious health problems unless the person has celiac disease. Keeping a log of meals and symptoms can help a person identify potentially problematic foods, and it can also help them manage an intolerance.

Sources

Aziz, I., et al. (2015). The rise and fall of gluten! [Abstract].

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Barbaro, MR, et al. (2018). Recent advances in understanding non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Catassi, C. (2015). Gluten sensitivity.

Catassi, C., et al. (2015). Diagnosis of non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS): The Salerno experts’ criteria.

celiac disease. (nd).

Gluten sensitivity. (nd).

Kabbani, T., et al. (2014). Celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity? An approach to clinical differential diagnosis [Abstract].

Lebwohl, B., et al. (2015). Celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Roszkowska, A., et al. (2019). Nonceliac gluten sensitivity: A review.

Sapone, A., et al. (2012). Spectrum of gluten-related disorders: Consensus on new nomenclature and classification.

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