How does gluten manifest in my body, and how do I know whether I am sensitive to it?
In recent years, gluten has had a bad reputation, and more and more people follow a gluten-free diet, either because they are affected by celiac disease or are gluten sensitive. But you may wonder why. So before we get into the symptoms of gluten intolerance and where it hides, let’s review the difference between celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein composed of gliadin and glutenin that is found in wheat, rye, and barley.
What is the difference between celiac disease and gluten sensitivity?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that damages the digestive system. For example, when gluten is consumed, it causes your immune system to damage the villi of your intestines that play an essential role in absorbing nutrients, resulting in permanent damage.
Gluten sensitivity is an intolerance due to the inability to digest gluten. It does not seem to damage the digestive tract, and the immune system doesn’t develop antibodies to gluten. However, it brings discomfort and can affect your quality of life.
What are the symptoms of gluten sensitivity? How does it manifest in the body?
Gluten sensitivity can manifest through a series of mild or moderate symptoms that can make you feel uncomfortable and cause pain. It usually impacts your digestive system. It can also bring neurological problems and affect your energy levels.
Here is a list of symptoms:
Digestive problems such as IBS symptoms - inflammation in the small intestine after eating gluten damages the gut lining and is one of the causes of “leaky gut.” This results in digestive discomforts, such as cramps and abdominal pain, diarrhea, or constipation. In addition, the difficulty for the body to break down and digest gluten can also cause gas and bloating after eating.
Fatigue and lack of energy after eating gluten due to the body working hard to digest it.
Brain fog is the difficulty of thinking clearly, feeling that you have a hard time concentrating, processing information, and remembering things.
Anxiety and depression - Experiencing chronic fatigue, discomfort, and pain could lead to feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, and depression. It is unclear how it manifests, but they seem more frequent in people with gluten sensitivity.
Inflammation - The body's inability to digest gluten can lead to inflammation and damage the intestines. Inflammation can be the cause of other severe diseases and conditions.
Headaches/migraines - If you are gluten sensitive and eliminate gluten from your diet, you may notice an improvement and experience fewer headaches or headaches of less intensity or duration.
Joint and muscle pain - Gluten causes inflammation that manifests in your muscle/joint and causes discomfort.
Nutrient absorption deficiency, such as iron deficiency causing anemia.
How do I know if gluten is the cause of my symptoms?
If you have been eating gluten for years, you may not realize that gluten is the cause of your symptoms.
However, if you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, you may benefit from experimenting with a gluten-free diet for a couple of weeks and see how you feel.
Eliminating gluten from your diet is the best way to figure out if you are sensitive to it.
Where is gluten?
Gluten is commonly found in wheat, rye, barley and is present in processed foods, cookies, and biscuits, cereals, bread, pasta, semolina-based products, couscous, malt, some beers.
However, it is also used in various products that you would never consider, such as stamp glue, Play-Doh, toothpaste, and lipstick.
Because gluten is used as a binding agent, it can be found in some vitamins, herbal supplements, capsule pills and tablets, sauces, soups, seasonings, spices, canned foods, artificial color, baking powder, candy, etc.
Gluten hides everywhere, which can be tricky. Always read the labels. If you follow a gluten-free diet and are unsure whether there is gluten, you may want to stay away from the food you were considering.
People who remove gluten from their diets report feeling healthier, have more energy, and fewer aches and pains.
I can relate to that! Eating gluten every single day, I would have never suspected it could be the cause of my symptoms. However, since I started a gluten-free diet, I have fewer migraines and inflammation, which means that my muscle/joint pain has disappeared.
So, if you are curious about how gluten is impacting your life, it is worth trying a gluten-free diet for a few weeks to see if you feel better!
Don’t get discouraged at the number of items containing gluten. You can enjoy a variety of delicious and nutritious foods when following a gluten-free diet.
In addition, good chances are that your diet will be healthier because you will limit processed foods! And the best part of it: you may notice a significant difference and feel better!