Are you asking yourself “Am I gluten intolerant? Gluten intolerance, also known as a gluten sensitivity, is the condition that causes a person to react after consuming gluten. Gluten is a type of protein in wheat, rye, barley, and other foods.
Symptoms can range from joint pain to severe gastrointestinal stress, such as that in celiac disease. However, determining whether or not you have gluten intolerance can be challenge in itself if you don’t know what to look out for.
How To Tell If You Are Gluten Intolerant
What is Gluten?
Gluten is the elastic protein present in wheat, barley, rye, and cereal grains that gives dough its elastic texture. Most breads, pastas, and baked goods contain gluten as do several soups and sauces that use flour as thickening agent.
Gluten is present in many foods and even non-foods on store shelves. It can be a challenge to avoid it if one has gluten sensitivity.
What is a Gluten Intolerance?
Gluten intolerance is a completely different condition from celiac disease and deserves classification in its own right. This may also be referred to as a non-celiac gluten sensitivity. It is believed that about 18 million Americans suffer from a gluten intolerance. While gluten intolerance and celiac disease may appear to be similar, those with gluten sensitivities do not suffer from the intestinal damage that occurs in celiac disease.
What are the Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance?
Gluten can be a sneaky element behind poor health and can cause an even bigger problem for those with gluten sensitivities. It can be easy to mistake symptoms for other issues. The following are common complaints that have been linked to gluten intolerance.
- Gas and bloating,
- Diarrhea or constipation,
- Abdominal pain,
- Migraine headaches,
- Mental fatigue, also known as “fog brain,”
- Inflammation and joint pain,
- Acne or other persistent skin blemishes,
- Hormone imbalances,
- Mood disorders, depression, or anxiety
Testing for Gluten Intolerance: The Elimination Diet
One of the easiest ways to test if you have an intolerance to gluten is to do an elimination diet for some time. By cutting gluten from your daily menu for a few weeks and slowly reintroducing it back in, you can determine whether or not it is having a negative effect on your health. While a physician’s visit can help you accurately determine whether something else may be at play (such as a wheat allergy or other condition), an elimination diet is a good place to start.
Cultivating a gluten-free diet can be a challenging task even for a short term. For those with the slightest sensitivity to gluten, the tiniest morsel of gluten can wreak havoc on their day. Thankfully, you won’t have to go as far to determine whether or not you’re gluten intolerant.
How to Do a Gluten-Free Elimination Diet
- Know What to Eliminate. Gluten tends to hide everywhere. Knowing what ingredients to keep an eye out for during your elimination period can help you stay gluten-free during your diet. This handy list features ingredients that contain gluten that you should avoid during your diet.
- Give it at Least 2-3 Weeks but Preferably Longer. Your body needs time to cleanse the gluten from your system so give it some time to work itself out. If you wish, you may choose to go even longer before reintroducing gluten back into your daily routine.
- Reintroduce Gluten. Once the elimination period comes to an end, begin to introduce gluten back into your diet again. Eat the foods you used to eat.
- Note Symptoms in a Food Diary. The best thing you can do during your elimination diet and during the reintroduction period is to keep a food journal. This way, you can make notes about how you felt without gluten and as you reintroduced it back into your diet. If you notice that you felt worse, or that you have more migraines compared to when you weren’t eating gluten, then you have proof that you may have a gluten intolerance.
Notes: If you find out through your elimination diet that you have gluten sensitivity, then the best way to deal with it is to eliminate gluten completely from your diet. Keep track of your new diet in your food diary as you find new foods and recipes. Make notes about how certain foods make you feel. If any new problems arise, or if symptoms do not seem to improve or get worse, be sure to discuss the issues with your doctor.
Beyond Gluten Intolerance: Celiac Disease
While non-celiac gluten intolerance is definitely a more troubling concern, there is something you can say for celiac disease, too.
About 1 percent of Americans have celiac disease. Another 83 percent of Americans live with it but are un-diagnosed or misdiagnosed.
When those with celiac disease consume gluten, damage to the villi in the small intestine occurs. This damage interferes with the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. This can lead to several severe health issues such as thyroid disorders, osteoporosis, infertility, autoimmune diseases, and some types of cancer.
Your doctor can test for celiac disease with an antibody blood test to rule it out as a cause for your gluten intolerance. If your blood test comes back negative, but you are still having issues with gluten sensitivity, a non-celiac gluten intolerance is the most likely culprit.
Finding out whether or not you have a gluten sensitivity doesn’t have to be a long and complicated experience. An elimination diet is the easiest way to go if you suspect that gluten may be to blame for some or all of your symptoms. Living a gluten free life is a healthy choice, and is quite easy with many several new choices easily available for those who suffer from intolerance or sensitivities. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes quite easy to follow and embrace especially now that you know that you are gluten intolerant.