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13 Early Signs of Gluten Intolerance

13 Early Signs of Gluten Intolerance

Head into any grocery store or restaurant with healthy options, and you’ll notice labels everywhere that say ‘gluten-free’. Seriously, it seems to have recently become one of the most popular health buzz words.

But is gluten intolerance over-hyped? Or, is eliminating gluten a sustainable change that can drastically improve your quality of life and get rid of a wide range of symptoms?

I wanted to know the answers to these questions, and I found that gluten intolerance is a very real issue that affects a lot of people. But, before we talk about the symptoms of gluten intolerance, let’s discuss what gluten is and how it affects the body.

What is Gluten and How Can It Harm the Body?

gluten free flour kneadingSimply put, gluten is a two-part protein (made up of the peptides gliadin and glutenin) commonly found in wheat and many other grains. Gluten is what gives dough its sticky texture, but it is also used in other processed foods, like salad dressing and mayonnaise.

While gluten has been a common part of the human diet for thousands of years, it causes serious health problems in some people. ‘Gluten intolerance’ is an umbrella term often used to describe those health problems, but there is a major difference between complete gluten intolerance and a lower level of gluten intolerance (non-celiac gluten sensitivity).

Complete gluten intolerance, also known as celiac disease, is a genetic, autoimmune digestive disorder. When you have celiac disease, gluten triggers an immune response that causes the lining of your small intestine to become inflamed and damaged, which can be quite painful and makes it harder for your body to absorb nutrients and vitamins from food. As a result, celiac disease sufferers must avoid all gluten, all of the time.

Celiac disease has become significantly more common over the last 50 years. In fact, a 2009 study shows that celiac disease increased from 1 in 650 people to 1 in 120 people during that time frame. Now, according to WebMD, about 1 in 100 people have it.

If not treated, celiac disease can lead to other serious health problems, like osteoporosis and bowel cancer. It can even cause infertility.

Sounds pretty serious, right? It is, so if you think you might have celiac disease, be on the lookout for these 12 telltale symptoms.

1. Bloating/Gas/Constipation

blosting gas constipationBeing bloated is no fun. After all, it makes you feel miserable – it’s like your stomach is about to pop! On top of that, you probably find it hard to squeeze into your favorite pair of jeans because of the extra fluff in your midsection. Yikes.

Gas and constipation are equally, if not more, bothersome. Plus, constipation can become serious if it damages your colon.

Celiac disease can definitely be the cause of these digestive problems. In fact, a study from the American Society of Clinical Nutrition produced some pretty alarming results.

Take a look:

“Celiac disease causes a wide range of gastrointestinal symptoms. Clinicians must have a high level of suspicion to detect the atypical forms of celiac disease. With a gluten-free diet, patients have substantial and rapid improvement of symptoms, including symptoms other than the typical ones of diarrhea, steatorrhea, and weight loss”.

That’s pretty conclusive. Keep this in mind if you’re experiencing an abnormal amount of bloating, gas, and constipation, and having a hard time figuring out why.

2. Diarrhea

woman on toilet with diarrheaI’m sure you already know what diarrhea is – a loose, watery stool that can be accompanied by cramping, vomiting, and other symptoms. While many people experience diarrhea due to medications and bacteria, others experience it when they have celiac disease and eat gluten.

Serious diarrhea can be a major problem because it causes you to lose a lot of electrolytes, which dehydrates your body. If your diarrhea causes severe abdominal or rectal pain, a bloody stool, fever, or signs of dehydration, you should consider seeking medical attention, as these could indicate a more serious issue.

3. Fatigue

woman with fatigueBeing tired occasionally isn’t that uncommon. After all, most people work over 40 hours per week and deal with other exhausting responsibilities and stressors too.

What is uncommon is severe fatigue. The kind where you feel like you can’t move. The kind where you can’t motivate yourself, no matter how hard you try.

Fatigue can be distinguished from normal tiredness when you show the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty starting and completing tasks
  • Dizziness/fainting
  • Vertigo
  • Constant exhaustion

Fatigue itself is usually a symptom of an underlying health problem. You guessed it – celiac disease is one of them.

4. Neurological Problems

spinal pain woman bedA neurological disorder is a disease that involves the brain, spine, and connecting nerves – definitely not anything you should let go unchecked if you’re showing symptoms.

According to a 2008 study, a number of neurological issues can be traced back to celiac disease. Check out findings of this study:

  • Peripheral neuropathy (numbness in the hands and feet) – “A whopping 50% of celiac disease patients may develop peripheral neuropathy“.
  • Impaired cognitive function – “Dementia may occur in celiac disease, particularly in the form of memory impairment”.
  • Gait ataxia (abnormal, uncoordinated movements) – “In biopsy-defined celiac disease, gait ataxia occurs, often associated with neuropathy”.

The same study suggests screening for celiac disease if any of these neurological issues are present, especially if no other cause is apparent.

5. Depression

woman looking dpressedPretty much everyone feels sad from time to time. Life can be stressful, and coping can be difficult. However, depression isn’t just normal sadness.

According to WebMD, here are a few symptoms of depression:

  • Loss of interest in activities that were once found pleasurable
  • Insomnia
  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness

The scary part is that there are several other ways depression can affect your mood and body. It can even lead to suicide if left untreated. So, it’s important to figure out the cause of depression and get rid of it quickly whenever possible. According to several sources, that cause might just be celiac disease.

Check out this excerpt from Psychology Today about how celiac disease is related to depression:

“Researchers have long observed an overlap between celiac disease and depression. Reports of depression among celiac disease patients have appeared as early as the 1980s. In 1982, Swedish researchers reported that ‘depressive psychopathology is a feature of adult celiac disease and may be a consequence of malabsorption.’ A 1998 study confirmed that about one-third of those with celiac disease also suffer from depression. Adolescents with celiac disease also face higher than normal rates of depression. Adolescents with celiac disease have a 31% risk of depression, while only 7% of healthy adolescents face this risk”.

Further research has suggested that about one-third or more of people with celiac disease also suffer from depression. You have to admit, that’s a pretty alarming amount.

6. Joint Pain

dr checking joint painJoint pain is commonly associated with arthritis and aging, but according to About Health, it can also be associated with celiac disease.

Here are the most common locations for joint pain associated with celiac disease:

  • Knees
  • Back
  • Hips
  • Wrists
  • Shoulders

Researchers haven’t yet determined the exact mechanism that causes joint pain from gluten consumption in celiac disease sufferers. However, it has been speculated that it either stems from the deficiencies associated with gluten that prevent the body from absorbing nutrients properly, or the overall inflammation that gluten consumption causes.

7. Heartburn

woman with heartburnHeartburn is an irritation caused by stomach acid regurgitation into the esophagus. Think about it for a second, have you ever had an uncomfortable burning sensation in your chest that lasted for several miserable hours? Chances are, you were dealing with a bad case of heartburn.

While it’s somewhat common knowledge that meals high in fats and oils often lead to heartburn (step away from the pizza and nobody gets hurt!), not too many people know that celiac disease can be to blame for heartburn as well.

Wondering why this happens?

Well, in celiac disease sufferers, gluten stops the body from absorbing nutrients properly, which weakens the tissues throughout the body – including the ones in the esophagus! When this happens, the esophagus can become less tolerant to the exposure of stomach acids, which can contribute to – you guessed it – painful heartburn.

8. Low Immune Function

sneezing woman with coldLow immune function can be dangerous and lead to a higher risk for diseases like colds and flus. Is your immune system struggling? If you catch colds frequently, have allergies, and are often fatigued, you may have some cause for concern.

Research has shown that celiac disease can cause malnourishment (a lack of sufficient nutrients in the body), which can result in low immune function. This is especially serious because your immune system is what helps you fight off infections, germs, and even cancer.

9. Dental Problems

woman brushing teethIt’s no secret that going to the dentist isn’t the most fun experience. I can’t think of anyone who actually enjoys it. In fact, most people take great lengths to avoid going.

If you have frequent dental problems, you may want to consider celiac disease as a possible cause. I’m talking about dental issues like:

According to a 2012 study, these problems can occur in people with celiac disease because “gluten causes the body to produce an immune reaction against one of the main proteins responsible for producing enamel on the teeth”.

10. Mouth Ulcers

mouth uclersYou know those tiny, round sores that sometimes develop in your mouth? Well, those are called mouth ulcers, and can be caused by many different things, ranging from emotional stress, to fungal infections, and in some cases celiac disease.

11. Skin Problems

psoriasis on elbowNoticed any strange rashes or unusual looking patches of skin on your body lately? Before you reach for an over-the-counter solution, you may want to consider that gluten could be to blame.

According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, here are some of the skin problems associated with celiac disease:

These problems often occur because gluten triggers an immune response, resulting in the production of antibodies that circulate in the bloodstream and get deposited into the dermis. The interaction is the cause of skin flare-ups, especially in the case of dermatitis herpetiformis.

12. Unexplained Weight Loss or Gain

unexplained weight loss or gainHave you suddenly lost several pounds without changing your diet or exercise routine?

According to Mayo Clinic, weight loss is one of the classic signs of celiac disease (along with diarrhea). So, if you’ve noticed your pants fitting more loosely lately, and you’re also experiencing other concerning symptoms, consider that celiac disease could be to blame.

In children, on the other hand, celiac disease is often associated with weight gain. In fact, as many as 75% of children with celiac disease are overweight or obese.

13. Female Hormonal Imbalance

low libido couple on bedHormonal imbalance in women can be a major problem, affecting everything from mood to weight. Of course, women naturally experience hormonal changes during menopause. But why would they experience these symptoms otherwise? The answer could be celiac disease.

Here are a few of the signs of hormonal imbalance in women that you should look out for:

  • Low libido
  • Persistent weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Digestive issues

If you are experiencing all of these, you might want to consider getting checked for celiac disease. Even if the test comes back negative, think about reducing your gluten consumption anyway. The reason for this is that research points to gluten ingestion causing hormonal imbalance, even in people who do not have celiac disease.

So, what can you do if you think you’re completely gluten intolerant?

pieces of breadUnfortunately, there is no known cure for celiac disease. If you have it, you absolutely must cut out all gluten from your diet. That being said, according to Scientific American, most people should not eat a gluten-free diet. So, if you aren’t sure whether or not you have celiac disease, you should consult your doctor before you make a major dietary change like removing gluten.

To test for celiac disease, you can schedule an appointment with your doctor to get some simple blood work done. The results will show whether or not you have it.

If your results are negative and you are still showing symptoms, keep in mind that people with celiac disease aren’t the only ones affected by gluten. Many other people have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and they experience a reaction caused by gluten that results in unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms.

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity can also cause several of the same symptoms as celiac disease like fatigue, depression, and heartburn, but it does not cause damage to the small intestine like celiac disease does.

Unfortunately, there is no real test for non-celiac gluten sensitivity. So, if you think you are suffering from it, consider limiting your gluten intake after consulting your doctor and see if your symptoms improve.

Remember, always take your symptoms seriously and don’t put off talking to your doctor about your concerns. Your body will thank you later.

Have you tried cutting down on your gluten consumption? What were your results? Share your story in the comments below!

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  1. Hamza

    August 11, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    Thanks mike for the post you do a great work here
    as you’re a nutrition experts I have a question that turns for years in my head
    I eat 1-3 bananas per day will this have a negative impact on my health?
    thank you mike ..
    keep the awesome work you do.


    • Mike Kamo

      August 12, 2015 at 9:10 am

      Hamza, ideally you want to cut down on eating too many bananas. Try 1 at most.


    • Robert Roose

      August 18, 2015 at 3:28 pm

      There’s no scientific evidence indicating that one can eat too much fruit. Personally I’ve consumed 40 bananas in a day without ill effects. There’s absolutely no need to cut down on eating bananas, so long as you’re also eating a variety of other foods.


      • Mike Kamo

        August 18, 2015 at 3:35 pm

        Robert, there is no way you ate that many bananas in a day — unless you are some type of championship super eater. Everything in moderation is my mantra. Also, if it is true please provide a video to prove it lol.


  2. Roberto Socarras

    August 11, 2015 at 7:09 pm

    Definitely a great article! Lately everybody is talking about Gluten free without really knowing what it is! You did a really great research in the topic!


    • Mike Kamo

      August 12, 2015 at 9:09 am

      Glad I could help. Thanks for sharing.


  3. Vishal

    August 11, 2015 at 7:39 pm

    Good post Mike.

    I work with a group of autistic children and gluten and casein intolerance impacts them a lot. This intolerance is not well known in India yet… hopefully people will become aware soon…

    Saving this article to share at a more opportune time. Thanks.


    • Mike Kamo

      August 12, 2015 at 9:09 am

      Vishal, thanks for sharing — hopefully there is more awareness.


  4. Selena

    August 12, 2015 at 1:00 am

    Mike, you make up many symptoms that have nothing to do with gluten and are NOT backed by science at all. Terrible, stop disseminating wrong advice please!!! You’re putting people’s health at risk


    • Mike Kamo

      August 12, 2015 at 9:09 am

      Selena, can you please share some of the issues you saw so we can clear them up?


  5. Vickie Ewell

    August 15, 2015 at 6:23 am

    It’s nice to see that you are actually taking celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity seriously. I have all of these problems except for low immunity. The immune system appears to be hyper, rather than sluggish. I’m also among the 1/3 of adults with celiac who were seriously overweight by the time it was discovered. When you don’t fit the textbook, you tend to get misdiagnosed – a lot. That can result in permanent neurological damage by the time it’s figured out. Not fun. Unfortunately, few doctors are willing to test for it. Or, like me, they start putting you through countless expensive tests for everything else, until you finally say, “enough,” walk away, and then take charge of your own health and diet.


    • Mike Kamo

      August 15, 2015 at 10:56 am

      Vickie, glad you were able to figure out what was going on — Looking forward to hearing more from you on the subject and nutrition in general.


  6. aman

    July 9, 2016 at 4:16 am

    hello from last one year im suffering from severe cold n cough extreme head aches n stomach pain after eating breads n pizzas … i guess its gluten allergy .. my doc said im allergic to something he does not what? i think its gluten intolerance… my cold is like every month n headaches are every time there… reply needed am i allergic to gluten I AM 15 years old


  7. Glory Canfield

    July 9, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    I’m only 15 but I’m lactose intolerant, I am often very dizzy, off balance, tired, I have a hard time sleeping, and I get bloated and stomach aches and feel like I’m going to puke after nearly every meal. I absolutely love breads and grains and I really don’t want to be glutton intolerant but I’m wondering the probability that I am. Also, my and and legs often go numb easily, I have had bouts of depression and I’m often always sick. I’m a very anxious and antisocial person. Meh.


    • Mike Kamo

      July 10, 2016 at 11:48 pm

      GLORY, Your doctor can suspect your problem based on your symptoms and your response to reducing the amount of dairy or gluten products in your diet. Your doctor can confirm the diagnosis by conducting one or more tests.


  8. Shaun

    August 29, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    Was misdiagnosed as Crohn’s disease about 8 years back and was placed on a mesalamine (Lialda) by my G.I. I underwent multiple scopes, and the biopsies always came back – inconclusive. I had the blood test (the expensive one sent to the only lab in the US located in CA) – the result came back inconclusive. Then about two years ago my doc decided to put me on an immunosuppressant. After almost dying and spending 2 weeks in the hospital within three months, I discontinued the immunosuppressant. I WAS NEVER TESTED FOR A GLUTEN ALLERGY – hello!!!

    Earlier in 2016 I was working late, eating crakers for dinner which resulted in me waking up with nausea and a stomach ache. After being sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, I decided ENOUGH. I quit all wheat, coffee, and alcohol. After just under one week my system was returned to normal – first time in 8 years and this was a momentous occasion when your going to the restroom sometimes 3-5 times before noon. I eased back into coffee – I was fine. I occasionally, maybe twice a month, will have a glass of wine, and, you guessed it, I was fine. A benefit of doing away with wheat was weight loss – 35 pounds in 5 months and I wasn’t trying to lose it (needed to). I still eat whatever I want, usually a good amount, but NO wheat and nothing fried. Thank God I tried this, it has been a true blessing. #wheatsucks


    • Mike Kamo

      September 2, 2016 at 8:04 am

      SHAUN, thanks for reading and posting your experience here. I’m glad that you’re fine now. Stay motivated to eat healthy. Good luck!


      • Wajid

        October 2, 2016 at 7:59 pm

        Hi SHAUN, Can you please share your daily meal charts, it will be helpfull to many 🙂 Thanks.


    • Melissa Hager

      March 6, 2017 at 2:58 am

      Honestly I am fed up with doctors not listening. I currently have no insurance but I have to make changes. I am up right now it is 0430 and have been up for two and a half hours in more pain than I can describe in words. I have blisters that actually look like water blisters all over my body that go away in time and I feel like I have rocks moving through my stomach. Stupid taco, I only had one and boy am I paying for it now.

      So I had a hysterectomy last 18 months ago with horrible side effects, was diagnosed as Type 2 diabetic and had a few (2) gallstones. Stayed sick and am still sick. I had an oral surgery, 6 teeth cut out and part of my jaw bone. Then still having issues and my job at risk was told that I needed my gallbladder out. I did it. I let them slice and dice on me, literally cut my belly button open because my colon had adhered to my hernia mesh from 2007 to get my gallbladder out and then after this surgery was told that I had slits in my colon and that I have high blood pressure. Well every blood pressure medication they put me on landed me back in the hospital.

      Since all of this here are my symptoms, abdominal pain, gas, diarrhea, nausea, anxiety, depression, cramping, fatigue, mouth ulcers, tooth decay, skin rash, and unexplained weight gain. So I have to try a gluten free diet for the sake of my own life and I know I’m suppose to ask my doctor but who do you ask if you don’t have one?


      • Melissa Hager

        March 6, 2017 at 3:00 am

        Oh and heartburn and hormon imbalance all which medication was prescribed but never really helped.


  9. Miranda

    September 12, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    I have anxiety, depression, amonerrhea,unexplained weight loss,constipation,sometimes diarrhea,blue nails,slight numbness,heartburn,stomach ache,rarely mouth ulcers
    These things get worse on the days that I consume more flour am I gluten sensitive


    • Mike Kamo

      September 14, 2016 at 3:15 am

      Miranda, thanks for reading and posting here.

      Sorry to hear about your symptoms. I would suggest you to eliminate gluten 100% and 100% means 100%. Even trace amounts of gluten can be enough to cause an immune reaction in your body.


  10. philo

    February 7, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    My daughter now 19yr(looks a skinny 16 yrs) is having weight loss,anxiety, loss of focus,fatigue ,giddiness,etc. her ENT,MRI echo heart tests all normal,finally the audio and speech therapist who suggested to stop all milk products.pl help me with a diet plan and what blood test should I do to cnf her gluten problem .Thanks a lot pl help ,from a desperate mom..Philo


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About Mike Kamo

Hi, I’m Mike. One of my biggest passions in life is nutrition and after being certified, I wanted to create a site where I could help readers live a healthy and nutritious life. I believe we control our destiny and we can choose to live a long and healthy life by eating right and treating our bodies with respect.

Let me show you how our simple and efficient online fitness coaching has made it easy for thousands of women to lose weight, and how you can too!

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