The problem with gluten allergy, and even celiac disease, is that there is no specific set of symptoms that allow you to confirm or eliminate a gluten allergy diagnosis. What we can do is take a look as some of the common symptoms, and see if it might be a gluten allergy. Then we can test for it, which I will also briefly explain in this article.
Gluten Allergy or Celiac Disease?
Before we start, please be aware that many of the symptoms for gluten allergy are similar to those of celiac disease, which is similar in many ways, although fundamentally a different disease. Managing the disease is similar for the two conditions; this will also be discussed later in this article.
What you must understand about celiac disease is that it is much more serious than a gluten allergy, even though many gluten allergy symptoms are similar to celiac disease symptoms. If you have a gluten allergy and you don’t think the symptoms are too bad, you might decide to eat gluten occasionally, often, or all the time. But if you have celiac disease, even small amounts of gluten raise the chances of serious damage to your internal organs. This can be life-threatening. You might not have noticeable symptoms, but eventually you might develop a thyroid condition or bowel cancer. Well look at the differences in managing gluten allergy vs. celiac disease later in this article.
List of Gluten Allergy Symptoms
Here is a partial list of gluten allergy symptoms. Producing a complete list is nearly impossible because there are many possible symptoms, and because you might be one of 5 people in the world with some weird and unique symptom that no one else has when they eat gluten. Again, it isn’t a matter of matching your symptoms to the list below, and knowing you do or don’t have gluten allergy. It is more a matter of “if this sounds like you, maybe you should suspect a gluten allergy”. You may even have a gluten allergy and not have any of the symptoms listed here. Then read on to find out how to verify if you have it or not.
The most common symptoms relate to your gut: bloating, gas, discomfort, poor digestion etc.
Although some symptoms seem contradictory, it is possible to alternate between one symptom and another, for example between diarrhoea and constipation. Or you may just have one symptom and not the other.
- Abdominal bloating
- Absentmindedness / chronic forgetfulness
- Attention deficit and behavioral problems (in children and adults)
- Brain fog
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Iron-deficiency anaemia
- Keratosis pilaris
- Mouth ulcers
- Short stature in children
- Skin problems
- Upper repository tract problems (sustains, glue ear)
- Weight loss
NOTE: Just because someone has one, some or all of these symptoms, does not mean to say they definitely have a gluten allergy. Other causes are possible.
Gluten Allergy Complications
People with gluten allergy can also have other problems which may go away or reduce if they eliminate gluten. You can think of them as a disease within a disease. They have other treatments, but managing your gluten allergy could be what you really need to do, instead of or alongside whatever you are doing for the “primary” disease.
Testing for Gluten Allergy
How do you test for gluten allergy? Since the list of symptoms don’t really help you know for sure if you have gluten allergy or not, you need to find out for sure if you have gluten allergy. After all, there is no cure and managing a gluten allergy is a pain in the butt, believe me, I’ve been at this for decades.
There are several traditional food allergy tests that could be used for gluten, including blood tests and scratch tests. I don’t recommend these tests because they are notoriously inaccurate. They could show you have a gluten allergy when you don’t or indicate you don’t have a gluten allergy when you do. Yes, I agree, kind of useless.
But there is something that does work: the elimination diet. The idea is simple: stop eating all foods with even the slightest amount of gluten in them for about a month and see if you get better. If you do, try eating gluten and see if you get worse. This may sound crude but it works, not only that, it really is the only test that works.
Managing Gluten Allergy Symptoms
There is not cure for gluten allergy, but you can manage the symptoms: stop eating gluten. Easier said than done, that’s true, but right now it’s your only choice. The good news is that there are more and more gluten free foods on the market every day.
The basics of staying gluten free are: avoid foods with gluten, look for foods that don’t contain gluten, and avoid cross-contamination.
How Common is Gluten Allergy?
Gluten allergies are relatively common. Some studies indicate that 1 in 167 apparently healthy children (0.6%) and 1 in 111 adults (0.9%) have a gluten allergy. When people with gastrointestinal complaints were studied, 1 in 40 children (2.5%) and 1 in 30 adults (3.3%) were found to have a gluten allergy. This makes a gluten allergy quite common, especially when people with chronically uncomfortable guts are considered.
Gluten and Fatigue
One of my biggest complaints when I am suffering from my allergies is fatigue. Everything and anything seems like too much effort.
There are many reasons why you might feel fatigue. If you’ve looked into other causes and not come up with anything, I suggest you try cutting out wheat, rye, and barley, in other words gluten, from your diet for eight weeks and see if you get some, most or all of your energy back.
Gluten Allergy and Leaky Gut Syndrome
There is a close link between gluten allergy and leaky gut syndrome. For more information, see the article leaky gut syndrome on this website.
Do you think you might have gluten allergy symptoms? What are your successes and failures in managing it? Feel free to leave comments with your questions and shared experiences.
- Gluten-Free Diet Story by Ashley
- Gluten Linked to Seizures and Epilepsy
- Celiac vs. Gluten
- Gluten Allergy Description, Severe Case
- Top 20 Food Allergies with Delayed Reactions
- Self-Testing for Food Allergies
- Allergy Symptoms
- Wikipedia on celiac
- Canadian Celiac Association
- National Digestive Diseases Clearinghouse
- Coeliac UK
- Celiac US
- Open Directory Project – celiac
- US Gluten Free Restaurant Program
- Wikipedia on Gluten
- Canadian Society of Intestinal Research
- Science in Africa