Is your stomach bloated all the time? Do you have bouts of chronic diarrhea and periods of extreme mental confusion? If so, you may have a condition called gluten intolerance. Gluten intolerance is estimated to affect 1 in every 100 people and has only come to mainstream attention in the past decade or so. If you’ve been diagnosed with lactose intolerance or irritable bowel syndrome but your symptoms still haven’t improved, read on.
What is Gluten Intolerance?
Gluten intolerance is a broad term used to describe both general intolerance to the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye and the autoimmune condition, celiac disease. Gluten intolerance is the inability to effectively digest this protein, leading to a myriad of symptoms ranging from stomach discomfort to autism.
What are the Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance?
Some people with gluten intolerance are asymptomatic, meaning they have no outward symptoms. Though undiagnosed gluten intolerance could lead to diabetic symptoms, thyroid problems, and mysterious infertility.
Other symptoms of this condition include:
- Cramping, Gurgling Intestines
- Bloating and Gas
- Distended Stomach (Belly Bloat)
- Chronic Diarrhea
- Chronic Sinusitis
- ITP(Autoimmune Blood Clotting Disorder)
- Muscle Aches
- Yeast Infections
- Frequent Colds and Flu
- Brain Fog (Especially 2-3 Hours After Eating)
- Inability to Gain Weight
- Irregular Menstrual Cycles
- Asperger’s or Autism Symptoms
What’s the Difference between Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune reaction to a protein called gluten found in wheat, barley, and rye. Celiac disease is also a disease of malabsorption. A person with celiac disease cannot process gluten protein and, because of this, the intestinal wall becomes permanently damaged. This means even when that person is not eating food containing gluten, they are still unable to absorb any nutrients.
Gluten intolerance is less common and characterized by a slower onset of symptoms. Gluten intolerance is commonly found in patients who already have an autoimmune disease such as chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia. Some patients who do not test positive for celiac antibodies may still have underlying gluten intolerance and respond well to a gluten free diet.
How Can I Tell if I Have Gluten Intolerance?
The best way to tell if gluten intolerance is causing your mystery symptoms is to completely eliminate all traces of gluten from your diet for 4-6 weeks. This can be daunting at first for someone who has never even heard of the word “gluten” before now. However, some grocery store chains and health food stores are making it much easier to find gluten free foods. To get started, check out this example of a gluten elimination diet.
If, after the first couple of weeks, you notice less stomach bloating and diarrhea, and feel like your head is finally clearing, you’ve likely found the source of your symptoms. After the 4-6 week period is over, eat a couple of wheat/gluten items at once. If the symptoms come back with a vengeance, bingo, you have gluten intolerance!
If you have gluten intolerance or celiac disease, it can be a rough road getting back to digestive health and you must follow a strict gluten-free diet for the rest of your life in order to stay symptom-free. This means also watching out for those hidden sources of gluten. There are serious long-term health effects for people who continue to consume gluten when they’re unable to digest the protein. These include thyroid disorders, diabetes, and colon cancer.
Healing Your Gut from Celiac Disease
Once you cut gluten completely out of your diet, this is only the beginning. Your gut has been severely damaged from years or decades of eating something your body can’t process. Because of this, it’s important you heal your gut. This means eliminating the processed foods in your diet and eating whole food instead. Think plenty of organic vegetables, fruits, chicken, fish, brown rice, organic yogurt, and gluten-free broth.
Eat small meals and chew your food carefully. You may even want to add a digestive enzyme to make sure you get the most nutrients from your meals. A strong probiotic supplement can reseed your ravaged gut with good, healing bacteria to boost your immune system, lift your remaining brain fog and get you feeling like a healthy human being again!
If you have gluten intolerance, I know exactly how you feel. I was sick from the time I was born to the time I was in my early twenties and had plenty of doctors tell me it was “all in my head”. Hence, the name of my website. You’ve got this. Just do the elimination diet and give your body some time to heal. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t give up. You’re not alone and you’re not crazy.
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