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Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance

by jenny sansouci on March 21, 2012

I rarely eat gluten. Not because I have a gluten allergy or I necessarily think I’m gluten intolerant (I’ve never gotten tested or done enough experimenting to know for sure). In general, I just feel better without it. It makes me feel sluggish, and sometimes it’s like I can actually feel it converting to sugar in my body. That may sound weird, but my body is very sensitive to sugar, and eating anything with gluten usually feels the same way.

Although eating food with gluten is a rare occurrence, sometimes I’m just not thinking about it and it slips in. Today, I was up in Maine and had fish tacos on flour tortillas. I thought, hey, these little tortillas probably won’t be that big of a deal. About 30 mins after lunch was over, I felt really fatigued and had a pounding headache.

Now, whether this was from the gluten or not, it led me to think about the many symptoms of gluten intolerance and what other people are experiencing. I put this message on Facebook and Twitter:

“Gluten-free friends: what are the symptoms that come up if you do eat gluten?”

I got the following responses:

  • Bloated
  • Puffy
  • Stomach pains
  • Sluggish
  • Eczema
  • Dental issues
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Sleepy
  • Drowsy
  • Swollen
  • Sneezy
  • Itchy
  • Foggy head
  • Cramps
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Breakouts
  • Gas
  • Moodiness
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Soreness
  • Stuffy nose
  • Anxiety
  • Dark circles under eyes
  • Back pain

Whoa! That’s a lot of stuff that can be attributed to eating gluten!

If you’re wondering, having a gluten allergy or celiac disease is not the same thing as having a gluten sensitivity or intolerance. With an actual allergy, your body has an immune response and your intestines are actually physically damaged. If you have a sensitivity to gluten, the effects on your physical body are generally less severe, but you may experience a variety of symptoms, such as the ones above. (Read more here: difference between gluten sensitivity and celiac disease). Treatment of both allergy and sensitivity is a gluten-free diet.

So, my friends — if you’ve been experiencing any of the above symptoms, I’d suggest you remove gluten completely from your diet and see if your symptoms start to clear up.

If you’d like to get tested for celiac, ask your doctor. From what I’ve learned, the best way to test for celiac disease is an intestinal biopsy (eeeeek), but it sounds like there are blood tests as well. Gluten-free/celiac friends, feel free to comment below and let me know if you have more info on that.

What has gluten in it?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat and related grains, including barley and rye. In general, all breads, pastries, pastas, flours, cakes, cookies, baked goods, cereals, etc have gluten in them unless they are specifically labeled as gluten-free.

Some of my favorite gluten-free grains are quinoa, millet and brown rice. For baking, I’ve used almond flour and oat flour (make sure the oat flour is labeled gluten free).

For more on gluten intolerance, check out these books:

Thanks to everyone who contributed their answers for this post. If you have any other input on gluten, please feel free to comment below!

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