What are the symptoms of having a gluten allergy
Gluten can be a cruel, cruel mistress—it’s part of numerous of the best things in life (cake! bagels! pasta!), but ends up making some people feel beyond shitty (there’s an ex-boyfriend reference here, but I’ll resist).
ICYMI: Gluten’s a protein in wheat, rye, and barley—and it can be really hard to digest for some people, says Rabia De Latour, M.D., a gastroenterologist and advanced endoscopist at NYU School of Medicine.
The most well-known group is people who own celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder where eating gluten causes permanent damage to the little intestine.
It affects about one in people, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation.
But there’s another group, too: people with gluten «intolerance,» a.k.a. non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).
These people—who could account for to 13 percent of the population according to two recent studies, published in Gastroenterology and The Psychiatric Quarterly—have most of the same symptoms of celiac disease but don’t show any of the physiologic changes, love damage to the little intestine and malnutrition, De Latour says.
But unlike celiac disease, which can be definitively diagnosed, you can’t know for certain if you own gluten intolerance, says De Latour.
«Gluten intolerance is not well understood in the medical community but it shouldn’t be dismissed as psychological or just a fad,» she says.
«It’s really a diagnosis of exclusion—once we’ve ruled out celiac through a blood test and an endoscopy, then NCGS is what we’re left with.»
There are some beautiful major symptoms of gluten intolerance, however, that you won’t be capable to ignore—here are nine signs that you might be gluten intolerant.
1. You can’t eat spaghetti without feeling ill or cramping.
Or bread. Or cupcakes. That’s because stomach pain—nausea and abdominal cramps—after eating something containing gluten is the most common symptom of NCGS, says De Latour.
But it can be hard to join the dots between what you ate and your pain. De Latour suggests keeping a detailed food journal to better identify triggers.
Your skin is dry and flaky.
While there aren’t any scientific studies to back this one up, lots of people with gluten sensitivity report having skin conditions, including extra-dry skin, rashes, acne, and patches of eczema.
You’re losing weight without trying.
Involuntary weight loss is one of the primary symptoms of celiac disease, because when your intestines are damaged you aren’t properly absorbing the food you eat, says Megan Patrick, M.D., a family medicine physician at UCHealth.
While NCGS doesn’t damage a person’s intestines, it can still lead to eating less due to associating so numerous foods with pain, which in turn can cause weight loss, says De Latour.
You just. Can’t. Concentrate.
“Gluten sensitivity can be primarily, and at times exclusively, a neurological disease,» reports Maios Hadjivassiliou, M.D., in a study published in The Lancet.
ADHD-type behaviors can be associated with gluten sensitivity. NCGS can decrease your ability to focus, says De Latour.
You’re super bloated.
Bloating can be caused by so numerous things, from hormones to beans. But if you aren’t properly digesting gluten, your stomach can definitely start to feel swollen and tender—especially after particularly glutinous meals, says De Latour.
1. Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea and even constipation.
I see the constipation particularly in children after eating gluten.
2. Keratosis Pilaris, (also known as ‘chicken skin’ on the back of your arms). This tends be as a result of a fatty acid deficiency and vitamin A deficiency secondary to fat-malabsorption caused by gluten damaging the gut.
3. Fatigue, brain fog or feeling tired after eating a meal that contains gluten.
4. Diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Ulcerative colitis, Lupus, Psoriasis, Scleroderma or Multiple sclerosis.
Neurologic symptoms such as dizziness or feeling of being off balance.
6. Hormone imbalances such as PMS, PCOS or unexplained infertility.
8. Diagnosis of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia. These diagnoses simply indicate your conventional doctor cannot pin point the cause of your fatigue or pain.
9. Inflammation, swelling or pain in your joints such as fingers, knees or hips.
Mood issues such as anxiety, depression, mood swings and ADD.
What’s really behind ‘gluten sensitivity’?
By Kelly Servick
The patients weren’t crazy—Knut Lundin was certain of that.
But their ailment was a mystery. They were convinced gluten was making them ill. Yet they didn’t own celiac disease, an autoimmune reaction to that often-villainized tangle of proteins in wheat, barley, and rye. And they tested negative for a wheat allergy. They occupied a medical no man’s land.
About a decade ago, gastroenterologists love Lundin, based at the University of Oslo, came across more and more of those enigmatic cases. «I worked with celiac disease and gluten for so numerous years,» he says, «and then came this wave.» Gluten-free choices began appearing on restaurant menus and creeping onto grocery store shelves.
By , in the United States alone, an estimated 3 million people without celiac disease had sworn off gluten. It was simple to assume that people claiming to be «gluten sensitive» had just been roped into a food fad.
«Generally, the reaction of the gastroenterologist [was] to tell, ‘You don’t own celiac disease or wheat allergy.
Goodbye,’» says Armin Alaedini, an immunologist at Columbia University. «A lot of people thought this is perhaps due to some other [food] sensitivity, or it’s in people’s heads.»
But a little community of researchers started searching for a link between wheat components and patients’ symptoms—commonly abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea, and sometimes headaches, fatigue, rashes, and joint pain. That wheat really can make nonceliac patients ill is now widely accepted.
But that’s about as far as the agreement goes.
As data trickle in, entrenched camps own emerged. Some researchers are convinced that numerous patients own an immune reaction to gluten or another substance in wheat—a nebulous illness sometimes called nonceliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).
Others believe most patients are actually reacting to an excess of poorly absorbed carbohydrates present in wheat and numerous other foods. Those carbohydrates—called FODMAPs, for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols—can cause bloating when they ferment in the gut.
If FODMAPs are the primary culprit, thousands of people may be on gluten-free diets with the support of their doctors and dietitians but without excellent reason.
Those competing theories were on display in a session on wheat sensitivity at a celiac disease symposium held at Columbia in March. In back-to-back talks, Lundin made the case for FODMAPs, and Alaedini for an immune reaction. But in an irony that underscores how muddled the field has become, both researchers started their quests believing something completely different.
Known wheat-related illnesses own clear mechanisms and markers. People with celiac disease are genetically predisposed to launch a self-destructive immune response when a component of gluten called gliadin penetrates their intestinal lining and sets off inflammatory cells in the tissue under.
People with a wheat allergy reply to wheat proteins by churning out a class of antibodies called immunoglobulin E that can set off vomiting, itching, and shortness of breath.
The puzzle, for both doctors and researchers, is patients who lack both the telltale antibodies and the visible damage to their intestines but who feel genuine relief when they cut out gluten-containing food.
Some doctors own begun to approve and even recommend a gluten-free diet. «Ultimately, we’re here not to do science, but to improve quality of life,» says Alessio Fasano, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston who has studied NCGS and written a book on living gluten-free.
«If I own to throw bones on the ground and glance at the moon to make somebody better, even if I don’t understand what that means, I’ll do it.»
Like numerous doctors, Lundin believed that (fad dieters and superstitious eaters aside) some patients own a genuine wheat-related ailment. His group helped dispel the notion that NCGS was purely psychosomatic. They surveyed patients for unusual levels of psychological distress that might express itself as physical symptoms.
But the surveys showed no differences between those patients and people with celiac disease, the team reported in As Lundin bluntly puts it: «We know they are not crazy.»
Still, skeptics worried that the field had seized on gluten with shaky evidence that it was the culprit. After every, nobody eats gluten in isolation. «If we did not know about the specific role of gluten in celiac disease, we would never own thought gluten was responsible for [NCGS],» says Stefano Guandalini, a pediatric gastroenterologist at the University of Chicago Medical Middle in Illinois.
«Why blame gluten?»
Defenders of NCGS generally acknowledge that other components of wheat might contribute to symptoms. In , a group of proteins in wheat, rye, and barley called amylase trypsin inhibitors emerged as a potential offender, for example, after a team led by biochemist Detlef Schuppan of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany (then at Harvard Medical School in Boston) reported that those proteins can provoke immune cells.
But without biological markers to identify people with NCGS, researchers own relied on self-reported symptoms measured through a «gluten challenge»: Patients rate how they feel before and after cutting out gluten.
Then doctors reintroduce gluten or a placebo—ideally disguised in indistinguishable pills or snacks—to see whether the symptoms tick back up.
Alaedini has recently hit on a more objective set of possible biological markers—much to his own surprise. «I entered this completely as a skeptic,» he says. Over his career, he has gravitated toward studying spectrum disorders, in which diverse symptoms own yet to be united under a clear biological cause—and where public misinformation abounds.
His team published a study in , for example, that debunked the favorite suggestion that children with autism had high rates of Lyme disease. «I do studies [where] there is a void,» he says.
In NCGS, Alaedini saw another poorly defined spectrum disorder. He did accept that patients without celiac disease might somehow be sensitive to wheat, on the basis of several trials that measured symptoms after a blinded challenge. But he was not convinced by previous studies claiming that NCGS patients were more likely than other people to own certain antibodies to gliadin.
Numerous of those studies lacked a healthy control group, he says, and relied on commercial antibody kits that gave murky and inconsistent readings.
In , he contacted researchers at the University of Bologna in Italy to obtain blood samples from 80 patients their team had identified as gluten sensitive on the basis of a gluten challenge. He wanted to test the samples for signs of a unique immune response—a set of signaling molecules diverse from those in the blood of healthy volunteers and celiac patients. He wasn’t optimistic. «I thought if we were going to see something, love with a lot of spectrum conditions that I own looked at, we would see little differences.»
The results shocked him.
Compared with both healthy people and those with celiac, these patients had significantly higher levels of a certain class of antibodies against gluten that propose a short-lived, systemic immune response. That didn’t mean gluten itself was causing disease, but the finding hinted that the barrier of those patients’ intestines might be faulty, allowing partially digested gluten to get out of the gut and interact with immune cells in the blood. Other elements—such as immune response–provoking bacteria—also might be escaping.
Certain enough, the team found elevated levels of two proteins that indicate an inflammatory response to bacteria. And when 20 of the same patients spent 6 months on a gluten-free diet, their blood levels of those markers declined.
For Alaedini, the beginnings of a mechanism emerged: Some still-unidentified wheat component prompts the intestinal lining to become more permeable. (An imbalance in gut microbes might be a predisposing factor.) Components of bacteria then seem to sneak past immune cells in the underlying intestinal tissue and make their way to the bloodstream and liver, prompting inflammation.
«This is a genuine condition, and there can be objective, biological markers for it,» Alaedini says.
«That study changed a lot of minds, including my own.»
The study also impressed Guandalini, a longtime skeptic about the role of gluten. It «opens the way to finally reach an identifiable marker for this condition,» he says.
But others see the immune-response explanation as a red herring. To them, the primary villain is FODMAPs. The term, coined by gastroenterologist Peter Gibson at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, and his team, encompasses a smorgasbord of common foods. Onions and garlic; legumes; milk and yogurt; and fruits including apples, cherries, and mangoes are every high in FODMAPs. So is wheat: Carbs in wheat called fructans can account for as much as half of a person’s FODMAP intake, dietitians in Gibson’s group own estimated.
The team found that those compounds ferment in the gut to cause symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, such as abdominal pain, bloating, and gas.
Gibson has endless been skeptical of studies implicating gluten in such symptoms, arguing that those findings are hopelessly clouded by the nocebo effect, in which the mere expectation of swallowing the dreaded ingredient worsens symptoms. His team found that most patients couldn’t reliably distinguish pure gluten from a placebo in a blinded test. He believes that numerous people feel better after eliminating wheat not because they own calmed some intricate immune reaction, but because they’ve reduced their intake of FODMAPs.
Lundin, who was firmly in the immune-reaction camp, didn’t believe that FODMAPs could explain away every his patients.
«I wanted to show that Peter was wrong,» he says. During a 2-week sabbatical in the Monash lab, he found some quinoa-based snack bars designed to disguise the taste and texture of ingredients. «I said, ‘We’re going to take those muesli bars and we’re going to do the perfect study.’»
His team recruited 59 people on self-instituted gluten-free diets and randomized them to get one of three indistinguishable snack bars, containing isolated gluten, isolated FODMAP (fructan), or neither. After eating one type of bar daily for a week, they reported any symptoms. Then they waited for symptoms to resolve and started on a diverse bar until they had tested every three.
Before analyzing patient responses, Lundin was confident that gluten would cause the worst symptoms.
But when the study’s blind was lifted, only the FODMAP symptoms even cleared the bar for statistical significance. Twenty-four of the 59 patients had their highest symptom scores after a week of the fructan-laced bars.
Twenty-two responded most to the placebo, and just 13 to gluten, Lundin and his collaborators—who included Gibson—reported final November in the journal Gastroenterology. Lundin now believes FODMAPs explain the symptoms in most wheat-avoiding patients. «My main reason for doing that study was to discover out a excellent method of finding gluten-sensitive individuals,» he says. «And there were none. And that was fairly amazing.»
At the Columbia meeting, Alaedini and Lundin went head to head in consecutive talks titled «It’s the Wheat» and «It’s FODMAPS.» Each has a list of criticisms of the other’s study. Alaedini contends that by recruiting broadly from the gluten-free population, instead of finding patients who reacted to wheat in a challenge, Lundin likely failed to include people with a true wheat sensitivity.
Extremely few of Lundin’s subjects reported symptoms exterior the intestines, such as rash or fatigue, that might point to a widespread immune condition, Alaedini says. And he notes that the increase in patients’ symptoms in response to the FODMAP snacks was just barely statistically significant.
Lundin, meanwhile, points out that the patients in Alaedini’s study didn’t go through a blinded challenge to check whether the immune markers he identified really spiked in response to wheat or gluten.
The markers may not be specific to people with a wheat sensitivity, Lundin says.
Despite the adversarial titles of their talks, the two researchers discover a lot of common ground. Alaedini agrees that FODMAPs explain some of the wheat-avoidance phenomenon. And Lundin acknowledges that some little population may really own an immune reaction to gluten or another component of wheat, though he sees no excellent way to discover them.
After the meeting, Elena Verdù, a gastroenterologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, puzzled over the polarization of the field.
«I don’t understand why there is this need to be so dogmatic about ‘it is this, it is not that,’» she says.
She worries that the scientific confusion breeds skepticism toward people who avoid gluten for medical reasons. When she dines with celiac patients, she says, waiters sometimes meet requests for gluten-free food with smirks and questions. Meanwhile, the conflicting messages may send nonceliac patients below a food-avoidance rabbit hole. «Patients are withdrawing gluten first, then lactose, and then FODMAPs—and then they are on a really, really poor diet,» she says.
But Verdù believes careful research will ultimately break through the superstitions.
She is president of the North American Society for the Study of Celiac Disease, which this year awarded its first grant to study nonceliac wheat sensitivity.
She’s hopeful that the search for biomarkers love those Alaedini has proposed will show that inside the monolith of gluten avoidance lurk multiple, nuanced conditions. «It will be difficult,» she says, «but we are getting closer.»