It can be hard to pinpoint the source of feeling unwell, especially when no major changes have been made to our lifestyle. When there isn’t an obvious culprit or diagnosis, even troubling symptoms can begin to feel like our norm. There may be hidden signs that we are suffering from food sensitivities, and those can cause damage to our bodies (not to mention our overall morale) if left untreated. Gluten/wheat is often the cause of these hidden food sensitivities, and more and more people are being diagnosed with gluten-related disorders. Whether you have undiagnosed celiac disease (CD) or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), it’s important to be aware of the signs so that diet adjustment or treatment can be initiated.
Common source of food sensitivities
Gluten is a common source of food sensitivities and can be found regularly in a standard diet in the form of wheat, barley, and rye products. In a person with CD, an autoimmune reaction is triggered which can damage the small intestine, increase intestinal permeability and cause other health issues including severe stomach pain, muscle cramps, joint pain, and skin rash. More than 2 million Americans have been diagnosed with CD. It’s estimated that NCGS affects about 13 percent of the population and can cause diarrhea, gas, bloating and fatigue, and can also be confused with or the cause of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). These disorders can wreak havoc on our system, so confirming if gluten sensitivity is present is vital to be able to adjust not only to feel better but to protect our bodies.
Hidden signs of wheat/gluten sensitivity
Here are some things to look out for when determining if CD or NCGS are in play: Sensitivities
Abdominal issues – Digestive distress goes hand in hand with CD or NCGS. If you notice abdominal pain or discomfort after eating including bloating, gas, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, or nausea, it’s possible that the cause was the consumption of gluten (or other non-gluten components of wheat). These symptoms—in addition to being downright unpleasant—can end up causing damage to the body if left to persist. However, some people with gluten sensitivity have no digestive symptoms. Sensitivities
Chronic fatigue (CF) – When we don’t feel well and are constantly experiencing abdominal issues or other negative health effects, CF is likely to follow, ushering in a lack of energy and overall sluggish and tired feeling. Sensitivities
Malabsorption – When gluten attacks the small intestine, it can prevent the absorption of nutrients into the body. This can cause a host of negative effects if left untreated, as the body won’t be able to process the essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients needed to properly function. Sensitivities
Joint pain – As the immune system reacts to gluten, it causes miscommunication with the body and triggers a response to fight the gluten, resulting in inflammation throughout the body, leading to joint pain. Sensitivities
Gluten ataxia (balance problems) – Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) from intestinal permeability (leaky gut) can lead to the breakdown of the blood-brain barriers which shield the brain from toxic compounds. Deterioration of the blood-brain barriers allows toxins to reach the brain and increases the risk of negative neurological impacts such as balance issues. Sensitivities
Depression – Anxiety, irritability, and sometimes ADHD are warning signs for those with CD and NCGS. Symptoms can last for hours to days and can severely impact the mental health of those with gluten sensitivity. When you consider that someone might be eating multiple meals with gluten every day, this can cause prolonged mental health concerns. Sensitivities
Brain fog and cognitive issues – Gluten sensitivity could be the cause of diminished memory, lack of focus, and brain fog. Other neurological impairments that could occur are serious cognitive issues. These also would be caused by damage to the blood-brain barriers from intestinal permeability and could even be associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Sensitivities
Headaches and migraines – Another symptom of gluten sensitivity can be frequent headaches to debilitating migraines. While many things can cause a headache or migraine, if coupled with other signs from this list, they could potentially be associated with gluten consumption.
Look for the signs
Getting the proper care and treatment for CD or NCGS is incredibly important to living a healthful life. If left untreated, gluten sensitivity can cause a slew of negative effects on the gut, brain, and overall general health. Cyrex Laboratories, a clinical laboratory specializing in functional immunology and autoimmunity, has developed a test panel called the Array 3X – Wheat/Gluten Proteome Reactivity And Autoimmunity™. This test is a comprehensive wheat/gluten reactivity test, which can assist in identifying wheat reactivity, NCGS, CD, food opioid reactivity, intestinal barrier damage, and wheat-related autoimmunity. The test can be used when multiple symptoms are present to help confirm gluten or wheat sensitivity. From there, patients and physicians can develop a diet and treatment plan to not only reduce depleting symptoms but to make sure that these concerns are addressed and aren’t left untreated to continue to damage important body functions.
About the author
Dr. Chad Larson, NMD, DC, CCN, CSCS, Advisor, and Consultant on Clinical Consulting Team for Cyrex Laboratories. Dr. Larson holds a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Southern California University of Health Sciences. He is a Certified Clinical Nutritionist and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He particularly pursues advanced developments in the fields of endocrinology, orthopedics, sports medicine, and environmentally-induced chronic disease.