8 Signs You May Be Gluten Intolerant
Medically reviewed by C. Fookes, BPharm. Last Updated on Jan 12, 2018.
Bloating For No Reason Or After Certain Foods
No doubt all of us have experienced bloating at some stage, usually associated with overindulgence after special occasions such as Thanksgiving.
But bloating for no particular reason, or only associated with certain foods such as bread, pastries or some sauces may be a sign of gluten intolerance. Gluten intolerance describes everybody who has a sensitivity to gluten - so this includes people with Celiac disease (an inherited autoimmune disorder that damages the small intestine), wheat allergy, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. If there is no particular reason for your bloating or you are experiencing it regularly - get it checked out!
Changes In Your Bowels
There are over 300 known symptoms of gluten intolerance so obviously symptoms vary from person to person. Then it probably comes as no surprise to learn that some people develop constipation (the passing of infrequent, hard stools) while others experience loose, foul-smelling diarrhea (the passing of frequent, soft or liquid stools). Several other conditions can cause changes in your bowel habits. Your doctor may need to run a few tests to fully determine the cause.
Tiredness Or Fatigue
People with celiac disease often feel tired all the time. This is because their intestines can't absorb valuable nutrients and vitamins needed to provide energy.
Tiredness can also be a symptom of other conditions such as anemia, chronic fatigue syndrome, sleep disorders, thyroid problems and diabetes.
Incredibly Itchy Rash On Certain Parts of the Body
Approximately one in four people with celiac disease develop an intensely itchy rash usually on their elbows, knees, buttocks, back, and back of neck.
The medical term for this rash is Dermatitis Herpetiformis (DH) and it is characterized by clusters of small blisters. Interestingly, people with this rash typically have no digestive symptoms of celiac disease.
Delayed Growth Or Weight Loss
Undiagnosed celiac disease in children can starve them of valuable nutrients needed for growth and development. Growth rate may also be slowed.
Both adults and children already diagnosed with celiac disease can experience weight loss, despite having a normal appetite. This is because even small amounts of gluten cause damage to the lining of the intestines, resulting in malabsorption. This damage can persist for years in adults, even after switching to a gluten-free diet.
Mouth Ulcers or Canker Sores
Canker sores (aphthous ulcers) are painful, small crater-like sores that develop on the inner cheeks, gum, tongue or roof of the mouth. The cause of canker sores has eluded scientists for years, but stress, infection, trauma, and certain foods are known triggers.
However, for a small minority of people, gluten intolerance may be the culprit. In one research study, over 240 patients with recurrent mouth ulcers were screened for celiac disease, and seven were confirmed to have the disorder. Interestingly, all seven had failed to respond to routine anti-mouth ulcer medications and in all, canker sores were their only noticeable symptom.
Restless Legs Syndrome
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a nerve disorder characterized by throbbing, pulling, creeping or other unpleasant sensations in the legs and an uncontrollable, usually overwhelming, urge to move them.
Studies have determined that up to 35% of people with celiac disease suffer from RLS. People with both disorders may also be iron deficient. For many people with celiac disease and RLS, following a gluten-free diet relieves RLS symptoms.
Depression, Irritability And Behavioral Problems
Gluten can have profound psychological effects in people with celiac disease.
Mood swings, anxiety, and depression are common among adults with undiagnosed gluten sensitivity. In children, tantrums, irritability and even ADHD can manifest. Some researchers estimate neurological disorders may occur in as many as 10-25% of all celiac patients.
Ask your doctor to test for celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergies, particularly if you have a child that has been diagnosed with a behavioral, mental health, or developmental disorder.
Finished: 8 Signs You May Be Gluten Intolerant
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), National Institutes of Health (NIH). Celiac Disease Awareness Campaign. Dermatitis Herpetiformis. http://celiac.nih.gov/Dermatitis.aspx
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), National Institutes of Health (NIH). Celiac Disease Awareness Campaign. Intestinal Damage from Celiac Disease Persists in Adults, Even with Gluten-free Diet. http://www.celiac.nih.gov/TissueDamage.aspx
- Hadjivassiliou M, Sanders DS, Grünewald RA, et al. Gluten sensitivity: from gut to brain. Lancet Neurol. 2010. Mar;9(3):318-30. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(09)70290-X. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20170845
- Genuis SJ, Lobo RA. Gluten Sensitivity Presenting as a Neuropsychiatric Disorder Gastroenterol Res Pract. 2014; 293206. doi: 10.1155/2014/293206. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3944951/
- Shakeri R, Zamani F, Sotoudehmanesh R, et al. Gluten sensitivity enteropathy in patients with recurrent aphthous stomatitis. BMC Gastroenterology 2009:9;44 DOI: 10.1186/1471-230X-9-44
- Weinstock LB, Walters AS, Mullin GE, Duntley SP. Celiac disease is associated with restless legs syndrome. Dig Dis Sci. 2010 Jun;55(6):1667-73. doi: 10.1007/s10620-009-0943-9.
- Hadjivassiliou M1, Sanders DS, Grünewald RA, et al. Gluten sensitivity: from gut to brain. Lancet Neurol. 2010 Mar;9(3):318-30. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(09)70290-X.
Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.