It seems that the words “gluten-free” follow us everywhere we go. Whether it’s on our Pinterest feeds, restaurant menus, or being proudly broadcasted by our next-door neighbor, gluten-free seems to be one of the defining phrases of today’s culture. But, believe it or not, eating gluten-free is not just a fad. Many people are actually intolerant to gluten. In fact, many people don’t even realize that they harbor an intolerance towards it. And continuing to consume it despite that intolerance can do major harm to a person’s body.
Gluten is the general name for the proteins that can be found in many of our daily foods. It is primarily found in wheat, rye, and barley. Most of your breakfast cereals, pastries, and bread products contain gluten.
The fact that gluten is easily found in so many of our foods only makes it easier to leave a gluten intolerance unchecked. Many people now know there is a connection between gluten and Celiac disease. But the disease isn’t the only negative side effect of gluten. Here are some other warning signs that you might have a gluten intolerance:
1. Digestive Issues
Embarrassing as they are, digestive issues are some of the most common symptoms of a gluten intolerance. They most often come in the form of gas, constipation, and diarrhea. Pay close attention to what types of food you’re eating if you commonly experience any of these symptoms. They’re often the easiest way to detect an intolerance to the proteins.
2. Energy Loss
If your body is intolerant to gluten, then it will have to work to eliminate the harmful substance after you consume it. Think about the times you’ve been sick with a cold or the flu. You feel tired because your body is working overtime to fight off the virus. While it’s not a virus, gluten can make your body react in much the same way if you’re intolerant to it. When your body is working against the gluten you eat, you’ll likely notice fatigue and a loss of energy.
3. Skin Issues
Skin issues that are unrelated to anything else may be a sign of gluten intolerance. Acne, flushed complexion, and rashes are all symptoms of a gluten intolerance. While acne and complexion can typically be easily treated, rashes are another story. The rashes are known as dermatitis herpetiformis, which is an itchy, chronic skin condition.
Keratosis pilaris, or “chicken skin,” is yet another skin condition that can be caused by gluten. The hard, red bumps look like goosebumps but won’t fade away as normal goosebumps do. They’re generally harmless but can often be embarrassing or annoying.
It can be easy to brush off normal, annoying headaches as migraines, but actual migraines should not be easily dismissed. Chronic migraines can be a huge warning sign of gluten intolerance. They’re incredibly painful and often debilitating to everyday tasks. On top of that, migraines can lead to extreme irritability and depression. So, if you experience chronic migraines, it’s best to get them checked out right away. It may even help isolate a gluten intolerance.
5. Joint Pain
Gluten can cause inflammation within a person’s body, which can trigger joint pain. The pain usually localizes in knees, hips, and fingers. Gluten has also been tied to arthritis. The proteins can even intensify arthritic symptoms in people who suffer from arthritis but don’t realize they also harbor a gluten intolerance.
6. Mood Swings
Some people who suffer from gluten intolerance admit to experiencing unexplained mood swings. These mood swings often cannot be tied to any other stimuli. On top of that, the imbalance that gluten causes can also trigger anxiety and depression.
7. Autoimmune Disease
Many people who suffer from a gluten intolerance have also been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. Examples include rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus. However, research is still being done on the connection between gluten intolerance and autoimmune diseases. The verdict is still out on whether gluten increases the risk of autoimmune diseases or if the autoimmune disease increases the risk of gluten intolerance.
8. Neurological Symptoms
Gluten intolerance has also been tied to certain neurological symptoms. These include feeling off-balance, dizziness, and loss of coordination. If you experience any of these symptoms after eating, it may be due to an intolerance to gluten.
9. Chronic Fatigue / Fibromayalgia
Chronic fatigue can be tricky because it’s easy to brush it off as a harmless side effect of everyday life. Many people attribute their fatigue to work, stress, and other taxing events. However, if your chronic fatigue cannot be linked to any particular trigger, it may indicate a gluten intolerance.
10. Hormone Imbalance and Infertility
The relationship between gluten and hormonal issues is currently being studied. But doctors think that gluten intolerance may actually be related to premenstrual syndrome, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and infertility. If so, continuing to consume gluten may worsen each or any of these issues.
Not everyone has to deal with a gluten intolerance. Many people can consume it just fine and go about their daily lives. However, that doesn’t mean your trendy next-door neighbor avoids Starbucks bagels just to keep up with the current diet fad. Gluten intolerance can be very real and harmful. If you experience any of these symptoms after eating foods that contain gluten, it’s best to test for a gluten intolerance before any of these issues become too extreme or untreatable.