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Am I Gluten Intolerant?

Updated on June 9, 2013

Celiac Disease is when someone is allergic to gluten, a product that is found in wheat, barley and rye. It is a genetic condition. If someone who has Celiac Disease ingests gluten, it could cause severe intestinal damage. 1 in 133 (about three million) people suffer from Celiac disease but there is now a seperate known condition called Gluten Sensitivity/Intolerance.There are no exact statistics yet on how many people are affected by this, but, experts are reporting anywhere from 5 to 50% of people are Gluten Intolerant. These numbers vary quite a bit because, at this point, there is no test for gluten sensitivity. All results are taken from research that is being done in specific labs, with selected people.

Signs of Gluten Intolerance

If you have been feeling sluggish, have an upset stomach that includes chronic diarrhea or constipation, you may be gluten intolerant or sensitive. Some other symptoms include:

  • Migraines or headaches
  • Brain Fog
  • Fatigue
  • Gas and/or bloating
  • Chronic exzema
  • Joint pains
  • Depression/anxiety

These are not all the symptoms that could point to problems with gluten but if you are experiencing any of them chronically, they could be indicative. I recommend a visit to the doctor or you can go gluten free for a couple of weeks and see if that makes a difference.

Structural Basis for the presentation of gluten epitopes.(Related to the antibodies/immune system)
Structural Basis for the presentation of gluten epitopes.(Related to the antibodies/immune system) | Source

Why Go Gluten Free?

There has been a trend in the past few years that has many people changing to a gluten free lifestyle whether they are are gluten sensitive or not. It is believed to be a "toxin" that is the cause of many symptoms including bloating, weight gain and poor energy. Many people have elected to eliminate or reduce gluten from their diet whether or not they are truly sensitive/intolerant. While gluten sensitivity is not a condition that can be tested, it is known to be found in many processed foods. Since more and more processed foods are being made and consumed, people are having increasing digestive issues. With the amount of food allergies on the rise and people who are elimiinating gluten to be healthier, shouldn't we just stop eating overly processed foods altogether?

Gluten is not the only food we can be sensitive to.

Every so often, we find a new food to pick on. Not so long ago, it was carbs. Many of us jumped on the bandwagon with Dr. Atkins and removed carbohydrates from our diet. The latest product we are shunning is fructose. Fructose is the major sugar in honey, agave, fruit juice and high-fructose corn syrup. In addition to these more "high profile" foods, many of us are lactose intolerant where our bodies don't digest the milk sugar in dairy products.

How to Find Gluten Free Products in the Store.

There are so many products that are naturally gluten free and even more that are engineered to be gluten free. You can pretty much find a gluten free equivalent for anything on your menu. That being said, know that many things will not be exactly the same. They may have a different texture or flavor. Another concern is that when you purchase naturally gluten free products, they may not be identified as gluten free because they are made in a factory that also produces gluten. If you are truly gluten sensitive or have Celiac Disease, you should not buy these products. Even traces of gluten may be more than your body can tolerate. Do make sure that what you purchase is clearly marked. I have not found a universal symbol for gluten free products. Some stores will have their products clearly marked on the shelf and others will have them in a gluten free section. Even if you find your product in that section, check the label to be certain that it is in fact gluten free. There are some natural superfoods, like quinoa and wild rice, that are rich in fiber and nutrients. One of my personal favorites is oatmeal but you need to check that it is pure otherwise it may have gluten in it.

While all labels may not be the same, the product should be clearly marked.
While all labels may not be the same, the product should be clearly marked. | Source

Our First Gluten Free Shopping expedition!

Quite a haul!
Quite a haul! | Source

Why go Gluten free?

My son has displayed many of the symptoms related to Gluten Intolerance. I have had a few but since I have Crohn's Disease, I have a natural propensity to difficulty in the digestive system. We decided to turn our home into a gluten free environment. My first impression? It is easier said than done! We are fortunate in that we love our fruits and veggies but we can't live on that alone. My first mistake was in buying all the snack foods you see pictured above. What I didn't think about, wwas that we might overdo on those and end up gaining weight, too. Instead, I should put the rest of the groceries I bought, pictured below!

Even if you want to enjoy some "junk food", make sure to eat lots of vegetables and fruit.
Even if you want to enjoy some "junk food", make sure to eat lots of vegetables and fruit. | Source

We don't all eat the same diets.

Are you on any special diet?

See results

Gluten Free Weight Loss

If you are going gluten free just to lose weight and not due to any sensitivity, you may want to rethink this. What can be said about gluten free weight loss is that when you start by eliminating wheat products like breads, cakes, cookies and pasta, you will probably see an immediate weight loss. If you continue that way, adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet, you will lose definitely lose weight. Don't let the labels fool you! Unfortunately, many of the gluten free "junk food" can be very high in carbs and sodium. If you eat a lot of these, you may end up gaining weight.

If you are not gluten sensitive, you can still lose weight by eating different grains and eliminating wheat products from your diet as long as you balance it with the right amount of fruits and veggies.

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    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Great article for patient education, Randi on an important health topic that remains difficult to definitively diagnose. I share some of your digestive issues with autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation at my jejenum. During diagnostics, my GI specialist tested me for gluten allergy, and the test showed gluten sensitivity, not full blown allergic disorder. I do have lactose intolerance, however, and I believe many of these digestive maladies exist side by side. Too much fruit and vegetables worsen my symptoms due to the fiber content. So, for me, everything in moderation (with the absolute avoidance of milk and soy) works best. 'One man's pleasure is another man's pain!'

      I think, with what the medical community knows about differences in genetics and predisposition to certain illnesses, many medical tests related to autoimmune disease and allergies, offer little in the way of definitive conclusions (at least that satisfy me). Patients are not 'one size fits all'. Sometimes trying one's own suspicions, as you suggest, brings about better awareness for what works for an individual. I didn't realize the caloric content in manufactured gluten free foods and I appreciate your information in this regard, Randi. They are generally very expensive, too, (like organic foods) which makes them out of the reach of many people living on a tight budget. Patient education is the way to go for having the tools to manage personal health by being informed. The days of 'the doctor is god', are over. As a side note, my GI specialist infuriated me with his remark when I asked him if he'd tested me for Whipple's disease. He advised that I "stop 'thinking' so much' since it would only get me into trouble." 'So much' for trusting the concept of 'doctor/patient' working together as a team for better outcomes.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      This is very interesting and I have been seeing many things saying gluten free so maybe it is time to take that test, what can it hurt?

      I have all the ingredients for your cous cous recipe and you don't say about the tomato sauce how much to use but in the picture just shows one small can so I am assuming that is all? Then fill with water?

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      This is my son. He recently went gluten free and feels much better for it. Great information, Randi!

      Have a wonderful Sunday afternoon.

      bill

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

      Thanks for the interesting and useful article here. We are trying to avoid gluten too in our diets. My husband is pre-diabetic, so we are adjusting a lot ways with our diets.

      Voted up +++ and sharing

      Blessings, Faith Reaper

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      Did a great job on this Randi!!! We eat so little wheat...and the only snacks we have are fruit and nuts and sometimes popcorn. Fortunately our diet is primarily produce...I think that most people who have celiac disease and eat natural foods they will lose weight. It is funny years ago no one heard of this and now the stores are full of gluten free foods. Anyway enough rambling..Voted up.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 4 years ago from south Florida

      Very valuable and well-written information about gluten here, Randi, which should be of special interest to many of your readers. Voted up of course.

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 4 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Great information, Randi. I hear recently that more people are sensitive to gluten because a while back when people engineered "new and better" wheat to have better crops, the number of chromosomes changed as well and certain gluten proteins predominate in the new varieties of wheat.

      The other thing I find interesting is that the list of symptoms you list is about the same as for Lyme disease. I have a friend who suspects she has Lyme disease.... I think I will give her the link of your hub and tell her to try to avoid any wheat for several weeks as well to see if it helps!

      Thanks again for sharing a great hub!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Wow, Amy, I knew you had it rough with auto immune issues but to have a doctor who belittles rather than works with you, is just too much. I have been very fortunate in that regard and for that I am ever grateful. Without thos wonderful docs working WITH me, I'm not sure where I'd be now.

      You said exactly wjat I say all the time.....MODERATION. We are not all gluten or lactose intolerant but there can certainly be too much of something. Like you, I can't overdo on fresh fruits and veggies so my diet can be limiting. It's all a balancing act!

      Good luck and thanl yo so much for stopping by and commenting!

    • JamiJay profile image

      Jami Johnson 4 years ago from Somewhere amongst the trees in Vermont.

      Randi, you list some very important information here. When I met my boyfriend four years ago he was in and out of the hospital and doctors office for severe symptoms and illness. The doctors thought it was cancer, so he had to get so many tests done in Connecticut (3 hours away from us here in VT), after about the third time of me driving him down, they did a biopsy and discovered that he had a gluten intolerance and it was not cancer (thank goodness). You would think a gluten intolerance or allergy would be a little easier and less stressful to diagnose. To this day he still struggles eating gluten free (mainly because beer is his worst weakness) but I try my best to keep only GF foods in the house and cook them for him, but I still LOVE bread and so doesn't our daughter, so he still slips a bit, but his intolerance just gets worse every time he slips up and now when he does slip he gets more sick, but he is learning, its still a new lifestyle for him (he lived off of pizza and pasta for years before I knew him). His intolerance is the main reason I cook with oats all of the time.

      Great info, this is really helpful for people who are questioning whether or not they should be on a GF diet.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Hi Jackie! The test will only be conclusive if it is a full blown gluten allergy but reducing gluten will let you now if you are sensitive because you will probavly feel better.

      So sorry about the tomato sauce. I'll have to go back and fix it. The whole small can is good.

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 4 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      For those who are sensitive to gluten and love couscous, I found that quinoa is a great way to substitute :-)

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Bill! It was a working Sunday and now I have an hour to catch up on hubpages before I go back to work!

      I am glad your son is feeling better! I hope mine will too! Thank you! :)

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Faith! I think it is a good thing to not overdo with! i hope your husband feels good! Thank you for your votes and share! xo

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Carol! Unfortunately, it was the snacks that were killing us, hence the gluten free snacks (Still not healthy but a bit better!) We are getting better!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, drbj! Much appreciated!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Joelle! I am pretty sure you are right about "engineered" foods. That's why kids are bigger and develop earlier. The symptoms also match chronic Fatigue Syndrome and many other auto immune diseases. Definitely have her try eliminating wheat. It won't hurt her either way!

      You are right, quinoa is a good safe substitute for couscous, thank you! I am going to play around with a homemade version when I have some time! I'll keep you posted!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Jami! So glad he is ok. This is a tough allergy because wheat is prevalent in so many foods! Good luck and keep up the good work!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      Interesting and so very useful Randi. Voted up for sure.

      Eddy.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 4 years ago from Sunny Florida

      This is a great article for anyone who is questioning their tolerance to gluten. It was quite informative. Up, useful, and very interesting.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

      a very good educational Hub here Btr... I never had to go on a certain diet.. but I guess as we all get older things like diets become even greater in importance.. thank you for this useful share :)

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Eddy! Much appreciated!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you so much Koffee Klatch! Your votes are very appreciated! :)

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Frank! Kind of you to say!

      BTW, if the way you are eating works for you and you feel good, don't change it! If it's not broke, don't fix it!

    • Abby Campbell profile image

      Abby Campbell 4 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Thank you, Randi. I have been gluten-free for many years... since I was a kid. Though I didn't know it was gluten that I had a reaction until recent years, I knew that I got very bloated to where I looked 4-5 months pregnant every time I ate foods with wheat. So, I just stayed clear of those things. Now that my girls are starting to have problems, I have been trying to get them to go gluten-free as well. It's been difficult, but we are slowly moving into being a gluten-free family as well. I wish you well on your journey. :-)

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you so much, Abby! We are still easing rather than full force as we have undergone a few upheavals these past couple of weeks! I really do feel a difference already and that is just by cutting back! Good luck getting everyone on board!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      I believe in a non carbo-gluten diet, though that can be a little hard sometimes! Thanks for sharing and I pass this along.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Michelle! Much appreciated!

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 4 years ago from South Africa

      I have heard about gluten intolerance and sensitivity, and I've heard about many people cutting gluten out of their diet. But until today I have not taken the time to learn what gluten is all about. And now thanks to you, btrbell, I finally know. This is what I so love about HubPages - spontaneous and natural learning.

      I think following a specific diet must be terribly depressing and tiresome. Fortunately I have not a profound reason to do this, but I do distinguish between healthy and unhealthy food and snacks. Furthermore I listen to my body and yield to sudden cravings for certain vegetables and meat. Of course, I try my best to suppress my craving for chocolates and sweets and try to satisfy them with fruit.

      Excellent, informative hub about gluten. Thanks btrbell ;)

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      thank you Martie, Having suffered from Crohn's Disease since I am 15' I am no stranger to restricted diets but this one it's hard! And expensive! Like you, I am a firm believer in listening to your body( even for some of that chocolate!) Thank you!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      Great article. The symptom list is very telling, and I really got a kick out of the humorous food popchips label.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, FlourishAnyway! Popchips are fun, funny and tasty!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 3 years ago from sunny Florida

      Thanks for sharing this. This is something I will share with my daughter who may benefit from knowing the details you have provided.

      It is especially helpful that you pointed out that gluten free snack foods do not mean that should be consumed in large quantities...which should be a no brainer!! but sometimes we may not think our food purchases through carefully especially when we shop when we are hungry.

      Have a lovely Thursday Angels are on the way ps

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Patricia! I appreciate your comments! And your angels! I hope you are all feeling good!

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Many thanks for your interesting article. Yes its important to moderate all intake of gluten and carbohydrates. I try to take note what I eat in a day. My body will tell me if i have gone wrong with one or the other soon enough and than I adjust. I do not strictly follow a diet. For me it's more how much exercise I do a day and ask myself if my body can burn off what my intake is. Most of the time I feel that many of us eat more than we need.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      We have been really bad at our house, Nadine. We are trying to play catch up on our healthy food intake. It has proven to be a bigger challenge than I expected! Thank you for stopping by!

    • proactiveparents profile image

      Jinni Bradfield 3 years ago from Profile Page

      Thanks for your article! Appreciate the practical tips as well. When my 26-year old daughter discovered she was severely gluten-intolerant, I switched to a gluten-free diet with her. I don't miss the gluten, but we have had to get a little creative to put together meals we enjoy. Since some of the gluten-free options out there taste really awful, we have been testing out a couple new ones each time we grocery shop to see which ones we like. We came up with a list of really great tasting GF foods. Anyone one who wants some better tasting options, let me know.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you so much, proactiveparents and welcome to my page! I am sorry to hear about your daughter but happy that you found out what was wrong. I appreciate the offer of ideas and hope you are "hubbing" your recipes!

    • proactiveparents profile image

      Jinni Bradfield 3 years ago from Profile Page

      My daughter's plight prompted me to check out gluten-free foods. I decided to put together a list of some of our better-tasting options, which evolved into a website, where others can go for GF answers and exchange ideas. The tasty food list is at:

      http://deliciously-glutenfree.com/fanfavorites/del...

      Hope it helps!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, proactiveparents! On my way now!

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