Low Gluten Tolerance Symptoms

Low Gluten Tolerance Symptoms

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If you have low gluten tolerance, eating wheat-based foods could cause a variety of symptoms.

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Low gluten tolerance, more formally known as nonceliac gluten sensitivity, is your body's immune system reaction to the proteins in wheat, barley and rye. Although it is less serious than celiac disease, it can cause a variety of symptoms ranging from stomach upset to headache. Symptoms often show up hours or days after eating gluten and clear up when you go on a gluten-free diet.

Gastrointestinal Upsets

Like celiac disease, low gluten tolerance often causes digestive system upsets. In one study published in "BMC Medicine" in 2012, people who apparently had gluten intolerance and whose symptoms cleared up on a gluten-free diet reported bloating and abdominal pain as the most common symptom, followed by diarrhea and constipation.

Brain Drain

Nonceliac gluten intolerance tends to cause more nongastrointestinal symptoms than true celiac disease does. For example, 397 nonceliac but gluten-sensitive patients seen by the University of Maryland's Center for Celiac Research commonly reported being plagued by “foggy mind,” a feeling that you're not thinking clearly and aren't alert. Headaches were another common symptom. And 22 percent of those patients reported that eating gluten caused them to feel depressed.

Low Energy

Chronic fatigue and feeling “draggy” is another symptom commonly reported by the gluten-sensitive patients seen at the University of Maryland center. Anemia, which can cause fatigue, was another symptom.

Muscle and Joint Pain

Some people with low gluten tolerance experience numbness and tingling in their legs, arms or fingers. They might also get muscle cramps or have joint pain, which can be confused with rheumatoid arthritis.

Is Gluten Really the Problem?

Because the antibodies and intestinal damage that mark celiac disease don't show up in nonceliac gluten intolerance, there is no way to reliably test for it. Thus, it's important to rule out other conditions. For example, lactose intolerance, Crohn's disease and other maladies can cause similar gastrointestinal symptoms. Even if gluten is indeed the problem, experts recommend consulting a doctor before going on a gluten-free diet. You could have celiac disease, a more serious disorder, and being on a gluten-free diet can throw off the test results, according to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center.