Are you constantly bloated, gassy, or uncomfortable after a meal? Do you experience brain fog, fatigue, or joint pain from time to time? If yes, then gluten intolerance might be the culprit. But how do you know if you are gluten intolerant? And what does gluten intolerance feel like?
Gluten intolerance can make you feel discomfort soon after eating a meal that contains gluten. Often, within just 1 hour, you may feel bloated and nauseous. Other symptoms include fatigue, constipation, diarrhea and headache. Gluten intolerance is not the same as celiac disease, despite both causing similar symptoms.
This article will explore what gluten intolerance feels like and how you can manage it effectively by making the right dietary choices. So, let's dive in!
Gluten intolerance is a condition, in which the body cannot tolerate gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and other grains. It is also known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). On that note, celiac disease is a serious automune condition, which is caused by a faulty gene, thus, it’s hereditary. So, although both gluten intolerance and celiac disease can cause similar symptoms, the two conditions are not the same.
In addition, gluten intolerance is often confused with wheat allergy, which is an autoimmune body response to food made from wheat.
There are varous scientific opinions with regards to what causes gluten sensitivity or intolerance that is not associated with autoimmune conditions, such as celiac disease and wheat allergy. The predominant theory is that gluten-intolerant folks actually react to foods that contain certain fermentable carbohydrates (sugars), known as FODMAPs, which also have gluten. The small intestine struggles to absorb these FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols), which causes a range of digestive symptoms. Studies have shown that nonceliac individuals, considered intolerant to gluten, don’t experiences adverse symptoms when eating low-FODMAP food that still contains gluten.
Other researchers firmly believe that the actual gluten group of proteins causes digestive distress and discomfort, such as nausea, bloating, constipation, etc.
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There are several symptoms that are indicative of gluten intolerance, which has not been diagnosed as an autoimmune disorder of any kind (an allergic reaction to wheat or celiac disease).
These symptoms can range from mild to more severe, depending on the person.
Bloating: Bloating, in healthy people, is the feeling of having an uncomfortably full stomach, due to eating too much. For gluten-sensitive folks, however, the same feeling after food intake is unrelated to how much they’ve eaten. Bloating is also often associated with the build-up of gas.
Diarrhea: Diarrhea is another common symptom that gluten-intolerant individuals can experience. When no other causes are present (potential food poisoning or a virus), and the symptom occurs way too frequently, gluten intolerance can be suspected.
Constipation: When someone with a gluten intolerance eats gluten, it can cause abdominal pain and constipation, where other obvious reasons are ruled out.
Nausea: Nausea is also a common digestive symptom of gluten intolerance. When gluten is ingested, the body reacts by making you feeling sick. You feel nauseous and may even vomit in more severe cases.
Headache: For those with gluten intolerance, having regular headaches is also common.
Fatigue: Tiredness and lack of energy are another symptom of gluten intolerance. People with this condition may feel lethargic, even after getting enough sleep. This type of fatigue can make you unable to function as normal during the day.
Anxiety: Although it’s less common, people with gluten intolerance may feel a bit anxious and down for no apparent reason. You can also experience difficulties to concentrate and slight confusion.
Related: What Has Gluten in It? A Guide for a Gluten-Free Diet
There are no specific tests that can determine if you have gluten intolerance. However, the first step to find out what causes your symptoms would be some blood and skin tests, which can rule out serious medical condions like celiac disease and allergy to wheat. If no specific antibodies are found in your blood, then you’ll be advised to follow an elimination diet, in order to see if you’re sensitive to gluten.
An elimination diet is a highly effective way to determine if you have gluten intolerance. It involves removing all foods that contain gluten from your diet for at least 6 weeks. During this time, you need to monitor your symptoms closely to see if they improve. Then, your health provider will ask you to gradually reintroduce gluten into your diet. If symptoms return, then you’ll be likely considered as being gluten-intolerant.
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Related: How Long After Eating Gluten Do Symptoms Start?
The most effective way to manage gluten intolerance symptoms naturally is by following a gluten-free diet. This diet requires avoiding all foods that contain gluten. Therefore, you should read the label of products carefully and plan your gluten-free meals accordingly.
Food that is made of grains, like wheat, barley, rye, etc. contain gluten and should be excluded from your gluten-free diet.
Here’s a list of common gluten-intolerance foods to avoid:
There also certain beverages like beer that contain gluten. Furthermore, you should be aware of cross-contamination. This means that certain gluten-free foods, like oats, may contain gluten, due to accidental contamination in the manufacturing facility.
Last but not least, cosmetics and certain medicines may contain gluten. Therefore, always read the labels of products to make sure that they are free of theis protein.
Related: The Ultimate Guide On How to Go Dairy and Gluten Free
A: Gluten intolerance can be mistaken for other food intolerances or allergies, such as lactose intolerance and wheat allergy, or for serious medical conditions like celiac disease, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
A: Gluten stays in your system for a couple of days. Some symptoms, however, will fade gradually, from several days to a few weeks.
A: Symptoms of gluten intolerance can start as early as 1 hour after eating. But it usually takes about 12 hours before you start feeling unwell. The time that takes for symptoms to appear will vary, depending on the level of gluten sensitivity you have and the amount of gluten you've consumed.
A: The best way to flush gluten out of your system is to drink plenty of water. Herbal tea can also help reverse gluten reaction fast.
Related: What Cereals Are Gluten Free? From Oatmeal to Cornflakes
Gluten intolerance can cause various symptoms that can affect your everyday life. It is essential to be aware of these symptoms and take action fast. If you suspect that gluten might be the culprit, visit your doctor for further testing and advice on managing any related discomfort.
With the proper diet and lifestyle changes, living with gluten intolerance doesn't have to mean giving up delicious food or feeling unwell all the time. Simple modifications allow you to enjoy meals without worrying about feeling ill afterwards.