More than 55 diseases have been linked to gluten, the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. It’s estimated that 99% of the people who have either gluten intolerance or celiac disease are never diagnosed.
It started when I got stomach ache every night after dinner as a teenager. The pain was not unbearable, but sufficiently enough to take stomach drops and other forms of medication for gastric problems. The pain continued and after reading all kinds of scary stories online I went to the GP. She could not figure out what I had and sent me to the hospital for a stomach test that had to show whether I had a stomach infection. The test proved to be negative and I was back at it.
You must also know that, at that time, I did not necessarily have a healthy lifestyle. I ate too much of everything, yet at the same time I was also a fanatic dieter and followed all the fad diets. My eating pattern consisted of a lot of bread (mostly whole wheat, because that’s healthy right?), dairy products (the Netherlands is the dairy country of choice), meat and fish for protein, vegetables and a little bit of fruits. Of course not too much of that, because it is packed with fructose (sugars in fruits) and it only makes you gain weight isn’t? Fortunately, I know better now.
Fast forward to the end of 2013 I moved with my family to Jakarta, Indonesia. With this move, my stomach ache also disappeared. I began to investigate the reason for this. I kept a food diary and, to my surprise, the result was not what I expected but also obvious at the same time. My diet in the Netherlands consisted mainly of bread, crackers, pasta and dairy in the form of yogurt, cheese, butter and milk. In Indonesia, you mostly eat rice-based foods throughout the day. Dairy was (fortunately) difficult to get and expensive because it was mainly imported. Through my own research I stumble upon this concept called gluten intolerance and realize that all of the signs of gluten sensitivity listed are identical to what I’m experiencing.
There was another symptom I suffered from which the perpetrator is gluten too. It is the skin condition called Keratosis Pilaris. As long as I can remember, I always have an irritated skin on the outer parts of my arms and legs. It seems like I have goosebumps all the time. Not funny. In winter it turns red and exposed to the sun it become lighter. I’ve always thought that I was born with it and I can not do anything about it. This condition contributed greatly to my insecurity when I was a teenager. I did not dare to wear short sleeves and short skirts because of my skin condition.
Does my story sound familiar to you? Can you relate to my experience? Then read my 10 symptoms that could be a sign that you have gluten intolerance.
10 Signs you are gluten intolerant
1. Digestive and stomach issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea and even constipation after eating gluten.
2. Keratosis Pilaris (also known as ‘chicken skin’ on the back of your arms). This tends to be a result of a fatty acid deficiency and vitamin A deficiency secondary to fat-malabsorption caused by gluten damaging the gut. Basically inflammation under the top layers of skin can occur and cause eruptions of rashes, itchiness, burning, redness, and even painful blisters.
3. Extreme fatigue, brain fog or feeling tired after eating a meal that contains gluten. Even after hours of sleep, waking up feeling exhausted is not a good thing. Gluten can contribute to feeling tired in different ways. When your body is in a state of inflammation and trying to process gluten proteins, it’s at the expense of the energy resources in your body.
4. Diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Ulcerative colitis, Lupus, Psoriasis, Scleroderma or Multiple sclerosis.
5. Neurologic symptoms such as dizziness or feeling of being off balance.
6. Hormone imbalances such as PMS, PCOS or unexplained infertility. Hormone imbalance can manifest itself as irregular menstrual cycles, weight gain or loss, hot flashes, low energy levels, erratic sleep patterns and more. In discussing gluten sensitivity and female hormones, Dr. Daniel Kalish D.C states that “a strong relationship has been established in medical literature between gluten sensitivity and the hormones progesterone and estrogen.”
7. Migraine headaches. While not all cases of migraines are related to gluten, it’s been linked as a significant cause for some. In a study that measured migraine headaches in gluten sensitive individuals, chronic headaches were reported in 56% percent of those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity, 30 percent of those with Celiac disease, and 23 percent of those with inflammatory bowel disease. Only 14 percent of those in a control group reported headaches.
8. ADHD, Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder affects children and adults alike, but many don’t make the connection of their symptoms to diet. Dr. Ron Hoggan, Ed.D, co-author of the best selling book, “Cereal Killers,” wrote an article on Celiac.com citing several studies linking ADHD and gluten together.
9. Inflammation, swelling or pain in your joints such as fingers, knees or hips. Joint pain and inflammation are (also) common symptoms of gluten sensitivity.
10. Mood issues such as anxiety, depression, mood swings and ADD. Depression is a serious health concern for many people. Symptoms of depression can include feelings of hopelessness, lack of interest, low energy, appetite changes, sleep changes, anger, and more. Research now confirms once gluten is removed from the diet, depression and anxiety can actually be resolved.
How to test for gluten intolerance?
Due to an elimination diet where I did not include gluten for at least 3 to 4 weeks. My symptoms slowly lessened or disappeared totally. No more stomach ache, bloated feel and my skin was softer than ever! Hallelujah! If you want to try this elimination diet note that gluten is a very large protein and it can take months to clear from your system. Another tip is to reintroduce the gluten again after the elimination period and see if symptoms come back.
If you think you might be gluten intolerant after the elimination diet then it’s only wise to eliminate gluten 100% from your diet. Even traces of gluten from cross contamination can be enough to cause an immune reaction in your body. If you need professional help I advise you to seek out an integrative practitioner or GP to guide you.