Approximately 1 in every 133 Americans suffers from an autoimmune condition called celiac disease, reports the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. For people with celiac disease, consuming the protein contained in wheat, barley and rye damages the villi in the small intestine and can lead to long-term permanent problems including malnutrition, cancer, additional autoimmune conditions and reduced bone density. You do not have to be diagnosed with celiac, the most extreme form of gluten intolerance, to have a reaction to gluten. An unknown number of people suffer many uncomfortable symptoms as a result of consuming gluten. These symptoms may be digestive in nature, but may also manifest in a myriad of other ways and vary in severity.
People with gluten intolerance may experience digestive distress, including bloating, gas pain, foul-smelling stool and occasional vomiting. Recurrent constipation and diarrhea are possible signs of gluten intolerance, as well. Unexplained weight loss may signal gluten intolerance, as your body is not absorbing the energy or nutrients from food. If you are gluten intolerant, you may be lactose intolerant, as well.
Psychological and Reproductive
Gluten intolerance can sometimes manifest as unexplained infertility. People also report headaches and brain fog when they are intolerant to gluten. Trouble concentrating, irritability, fatigue -- sometimes due to anemia -- and mood swings are other symptoms.
Gluten intolerance can cause rashes, rosacea, eczema and canker sores. A specific type of rash, called dermatitis herpetiformis, characterized by itchy, blistering patches of skin is an indication that you have celiac disease, the most severe form of gluten intolerance. Everyone with this condition has celiac, but not everyone with gluten intolerance or celiac disease will develop it.
Neurological and Bone Health
Gluten intolerance can also cause joint pain and tingling in the arms and legs. Nerve damage and poor balance are other indicators of possible gluten intolerance. Gluten intolerance, particularly celiac-based, can cause early onset osteoporosis and contribute to tooth enamel erosion and discoloration.
- National Foundation for Celiac Awareness; Celiac Disease Facts and Figures; August 2010
- University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center: Celiac Disease Symptoms
- "Living Gluten-Free for Dummies;" Danna Korn; 2006
- American Celiac Disease Alliance: What is Celiac Disease?