Gluten Allergy Symptoms

by Allergy Guy

Gluten allergy symptoms can range widely from person to person, and be confused with many other causes. This article will help you understand gluten allergy.

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
  • Anaemia
  • Attention deficit and behavioral problems (in children and adults)
  • Brain fog
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Diarrhoea
  • Diverticulitis
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Iron-deficiency anaemia
  • Irritability
  • Keratosis pilaris
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Osteoporosis
  • 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.

For more information, see the Elimination Diet and List of Gluten Free Food articles on this website.

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.

Your Feedback

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.


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{ 295 comments… read them below or add one }

1 nancy December 1, 2012 at 22:01

when my daughter eats gluten products she gets pain in her feet, she can’t walk and says it feels like her feet are bubbling from the inside. Has anyone else experienced this effect or heard of anything like this.

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2 Tracy June 23, 2013 at 16:46

Yes, my 12 year old son has been telling me this. Just started researching food allergies due to his symptoms.

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3 foods that cause gout December 20, 2012 at 03:19

Very good website you have here but I was curious about if you knew of any user discussion forums that cover
the same topics discussed in this article? I’d really like to be a part of community where I can get feedback from other experienced people that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Thanks!

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4 Sue January 20, 2013 at 16:09

My daughter is newly diagnosed with Crohns disease. She is 17.
Her whole life she had severe moods swings which made it difficult to attend school and on top of the there were always numerous ear infections, asthma, tonsilitis, abscesses…abdominal pain, so she had a lot of really bad days. She finally became very ill a year ago with severe bleeding from the bowel and diahrea.
She is now on Remicaide for the Crohns but we have cut dairy and gluten from her diet as well.
Afer being gluten and dairy free-she has not used her puffers and she no longer suffers from mood swings and is very even tempered, she is like the kid I used to see only on the “good days”. Her Crohns still gives her issues. But mentally she is normal. My nephew also had similar mood swings. Medication was tried to improve his mental condition. These failed miserably. He actually got worse and at age 8 was no longer able to attend school. As a last ditch effort he was taken off dairy and gluten. The Phychologists do not believe in this gluten free diet- but it worked. He is back at regular school for the first time in 3 years. While he is still not 100% his good days far out number his bad days and he is a different person.His rages have stopped and he is not on medication.

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5 Allergy Guy January 21, 2013 at 21:37

That’s great news for both your daughter and your nephew, thanks for sharing!

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6 Richard Warren October 10, 2013 at 16:38

What is all this strange insurgence of gluten allergies. Is anyone sure if it is a corn allergy. It is difficult to buy a bread, a cereal, or a food that does not have corn syrup, HFCS, dextrose, maltodextrin, dextrin, and about 300 other hidden corn ingredients in it. Is the corn industry hiding the truth. I hardly heard of anyone having an allergy to gluten years ago. But, now all our processed food is loaded with corn ingredients. The farmers spray their fruits and vegetagels with a corn spray. Eggs are sprayed with a corn spray and some say that it penetrates into the eggs.

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7 Allergy Guy October 11, 2013 at 08:48

No doubt, corn allergies are common too. But many people, including myself, must avoid wheat and gluten, but are OK with corn. Hardly anyone had any kind of allergy years ago. More people have allergies now, and more people are aware of the symptoms. And probably some people see allergies because they look for them, but sometimes it’s something else.

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8 art maressa January 7, 2014 at 15:01

my son has been eating cereal all his life,he,s 16,lately after eating life cereal in the am he says heis throat starts feeling numb and he gets the shakes any ideas on this? he went to eating toast

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9 Allergy Guy January 12, 2014 at 13:30

It could be the milk added to the cereal, or something else in the ingredients. Have you checked for any other possible culprits?

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10 Sandra Lengel June 7, 2014 at 20:39

I think I’m allergy to gluten and have cut out all wheat out of my diet and watching my sugars, but don’t seem to have much energy. Is that normal?

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11 Allergy Guy June 8, 2014 at 16:52

Do you have less energy after cutting out gluten, or that you haven’t noticed an increase in energy since cutting out gluten?
It can take several weeks – or even months – for gluten to clear from your system. You may slowly regain energy, or suddenly gain quite a bit after a few weeks, it really depends on the individual, and of course if gluten really is the problem. Some people have to cut out all gluten (even the occasional crumb, otherwise they almost have to start over. So are you sure you are cutting out all gluten (not most wheat,

    all

wheat, as well as oats, barely and rye)? Speaking of oats, there is controversy over whether it is really gluten or not. Assume it is and cut it out until you either get better or decide gluten is not the problem, then think about if you want to try oats or not.

Feel free to ask more questions

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12 Yee Ah Beng July 29, 2014 at 22:58

Dear Mr Allergy Guy,
Thank you for your information on gluten allergy and symptoms.
You mentioned 3 cereals – wheat, rye and barley containing gluten. What about other cereals like oat, rice etc.?

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13 Allergy Guy July 31, 2014 at 15:19

Actually, four: wheat, rye, barely and oats. There is debate about oats but I suggest avoiding them, even the supposedly “gluten-free” types.
Other grains, such as rice and corn, do have their own types of gluten protiens, but these are not associated with celiac disease. You could still be allergic to them. If you are allergic to wheat gluten, are you therefor allergic to rye or corn gluten? More likely the former than the latter, but with allergies, anything is possible.

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