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How to Tell if You Have a Gluten Allergy

Updated on March 12, 2011

Gluten intolerance can cause a wide variety of seemingly vague symptoms. Symptoms may be so vague that people often do not seek treatment. Also, these symptoms are commonly confused with those of many other diseases and conditions, making achieving an accurate diagnosis tricky for many people. At the same time, adopting a gluten-free diet can be dangerous for people without an established sensitivity to gluten-based foods.

Gluten can be found in pasta, breads, and anything that contains certain types of flour. Symptoms of a gluten allergy include irritable bowel syndrome, loose stools, flatulence, bloating, achy joints and muscles, depression, and increased weight gain. Some psychological symptoms have also been reported, with difficulty concentrating being most noted in children with gluten intolerance.

Gluten Allergy
Gluten Allergy

Another problem with diagnosing a gluten allergy, however, is that there is no specific blood test or assessment for gluten intolerance. Doctors can perform blood work and lab tests for many other common conditions that are marked by similar symptoms. This is another reason why people with gluten intolerance are often misdiagnosed as having other types of illnesses.

While there is testing for many types of allergies, gluten intolerance is technically not an allergy. Histamine reactions do not occur in the body when a person is intolerant to gluten, but instead, other physical and mental symptoms occur. For this reason, many people refer to gluten intolerance as a gluten allergy. Technically, an intolerance to gluten does not involve the immune system at all.

There is also a lot of scrutiny among people in the medical profession about gluten intolerance. Very little research has been conducted in this area, and studies often contain conflicting information. Many nutrition experts contend, however, that gluten can have a significant impact on the day-to-day symptoms of many people. Although there are no specific tests for a gluten allergy, detecting a pattern of symptoms is possible with the use of a daily food diary.

Using a food diary is one of the best methods for detecting gluten intolerance. There are two ways that a food diary can help measure whether a gluten allergy is leading to problematic symptoms. The first method involves eating all of the same foods and recording any related symptoms. The patient writes down everything that they eat, recording meal times in a personal journal. Symptoms such as fatigue, muscle aches, depression, anxiety, problems with concentration, and gastrointestinal irritation are also noted in the diary. By doing this, a patient is able to link specific foods to problem symptoms.

A second method of using a food diary to detect gluten intolerance involves eliminating foods that contain gluten from the diet for a period of 2-3 weeks. Foods, meal times, and related symptoms are also recorded in the food diary. No matter which method is used, patterns can be observed in as little as two weeks. 

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