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Gluten Intolerance - Symptoms, Diagnosis and Prevention

Published on Mar 16, 2022 and last reviewed on Sep 08, 2022   -  4 min read


Gluten intolerance occurs when the human body cannot digest or break gluten present in wheat and other grains. Read the article below to know more about gluten intolerance in detail.

What Is Gluten Intolerance?

Gluten intolerance occurs when the human body cannot digest or break gluten present in wheat and other grains. Gluten intolerance ranges from mild sensitivity to complete celiac disease. Gluten intolerance includes celiac disease, wheat allergy, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).

What Are the Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance?

An individual with gluten intolerance develops symptoms after consuming wheat or barley foods. The symptoms are tiredness, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and constipation. Some patients may also experience anxiety, headache, brain fog, confusion, numbness, joint pain, and skin rashes.

What Is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is a disease where the immune system responds abnormally to gluten. Increased consumption of gluten causes damage to the villi of the small intestine, which are responsible for the absorption of nutrients. Without proper nutrition, malnutrition occurs.

Adults develop different symptoms for celiac disease. Children develop digestive symptoms such as abdominal bloating, diarrhea, constipation, foul-smelling stool, stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting.

Poor absorption of nutrients causes delayed puberty in adolescence, short stature, irritable mood, and weight loss in children. Adults develop fatigue, anxiety, depression, headache, joint pain, infertility, tingling in hand and feet, and irregular menstrual periods.

What Is Wheat Allergy?

A wheat allergy occurs when an immune response develops in the body due to proteins present in wheat. Symptoms related to wheat allergy begin within a few minutes of consuming wheat. The symptoms are nausea, vomiting, irritation inside the mouth and throat, hives, nasal congestion, and difficulty breathing.

In severe cases, anaphylaxis occurs where blood pressure becomes low, and the affected person may lose consciousness and stop breathing. Treatment is given by injecting Epinephrine directly into the skin after the development of anaphylaxis.

How to Diagnose Gluten Intolerance?

When a person experiences health issues after taking gluten, it is necessary to consult a doctor. The doctor asks about the symptoms experienced by the patient. Then the doctor orders laboratory tests to rule out celiac disease from other gastrointestinal problems. Followed by that, the doctor may monitor the patient’s dietary habits.

It is challenging to differentiate celiac disease from gluten intolerance. The doctor may do blood tests and biopsies to rule out celiac disease. The doctor looks for tissue transglutaminase IgA (immunoglobulin A) antibodies in the blood test. If the blood tests indicate the presence of antibodies, then the person is said to have celiac disease. Children with deamidated gliadin IgA or IgG antibodies in the blood have celiac disease.

The biopsy involves taking a tissue sample from the intestinal lining. If the result shows any damage in the intestinal lining, then the person is diagnosed to have celiac disease. If the doctor rules out celiac disease, the doctor may also look for IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), wheat allergy, or gluten intolerance.

Monitoring diet helps distinguish glucose intolerance from celiac disease, IBS, and other intestinal issues. The affected person may monitor some symptoms, specifically under the doctor’s supervision.

The patient is advised to consume a gluten diet for a week, and then the gluten diet has to be stopped for a week. Post that, the patient has to reintroduce gluten in his diet for a week again. When he or she starts experiencing symptoms after consuming a gluten-containing diet, the patient is advised to consult a doctor for further management. A person having problems after consuming gluten needs a doctor's consultation without making dietary changes because this helps to make a definitive diagnosis.

How to Manage Gluten Intolerance?

The treatment for celiac disease is to take a gluten-free diet. The treatment for wheat allergy is to take a wheat-free diet. When a person suffers from (non-celiac gluten sensitivity) NCGS, gluten elimination from their diet depends on their severity and tolerance level. Many wheat-free and gluten-free alternatives are also available. The doctor may also advise a person to eat products and grains safe for their health issues.

What Are the Foods to Be Avoided While Having Gluten Intolerance?

A person should avoid taking these foods while having gluten intolerance.

1) Gluten-Containing Grains:

Grains containing gluten are wheat, barley, rye, triticale, farina, spelt, kamut, and farro.

2) Bread and Crackers:

People having gluten intolerance should avoid taking white bread, wheat bread, potato bread, rye bread, wheat crackers, flatbread, and bagels.

3) Condiments:

Condiments such as soy sauce, barbecue sauce, marinades, cream sauce, spice blends, and vinegar contain gluten. As an alternative, a person with gluten intolerance can purchase gluten-free ones.

4) Baked Products:

Baked products are usually made of wheat flour or gluten-containing grains. People having gluten intolerance should avoid taking cakes, cookies, pastries, doughnuts, pancakes, and waffles.

5) Pastas Made of Wheat:

Most kinds of pasta are made from gluten-containing grains. Examples are noodles, spaghetti, and dumplings. Gluten-free alternatives are also available.

6) Snacks:

Snacks are the richest source of gluten. Gluten-containing snacks are granola bars, cereal bars, energy bars, chips, cookies, and snack mixes.

7) Beverages:

Certain beverages are made with ingredients containing gluten. Beverages containing gluten are beer, bottled wine coolers, premade coffee drinks, and chocolate milk.

8) Processed Foods and Other Items:

Many processed foods contain gluten. The processed foods having gluten are meat, processed cheese, canned soups, puddings, ice creams, breakfast cereals, french fries, and flavored tofu.

What Are the Foods to Be Taken While Having Gluten Intolerance?

Foods that do not contain gluten are fruits, vegetables, legumes, gluten-free grains, nuts, fish, poultry, and dairy products. Individuals looking for gluten-free food products should check their food labels carefully before purchasing.


Wheat allergy, celiac disease, and NCGS have similarities in causes and symptoms. Ideally, understanding these health conditions might help a person follow appropriate treatment options and food products for their health issues.

Frequently Asked Questions


How to Know Whether I Am Gluten Intolerant?

Gluten intolerance is the inability to digest the protein (gluten) found in wheat, barley, rye, and some drugs and supplements. The symptoms that show a person is gluten intolerant are listed down:
- Stomachache.
- Tiredness.
- Gassiness or bloating.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Diarrhea.
- Foul-smelling stool.
- Constipation.


Does Gluten Intolerance Occur Suddenly?

Gluten intolerance or sensitivity can occur suddenly or can be present from infancy. Women are more commonly affected by gluten intolerance. In most individuals, the body accepts gluten products for several years and may suddenly show intolerance. After eating gluten products, the person may have abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, etc.


When Does the First Sign Appear After Gluten Ingestion?

Gluten intolerance is also known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity. In celiac disease, there is an abnormal immune response to gluten, and also, there is damage to the small intestine. The first symptom occurs several hours or days after consuming gluten products like wheat, barley, and rye in gluten intolerance.


What Is the Home Test for Gluten Intolerance?

A rapid test kit is available to check gluten intolerance at home. The kit detects the presence of tissue transglutaminase IgA (tTG-IgA) antibodies in the blood. The level of tTg-IgA antibodies rises when the person is on a gluten diet. Therefore, the test can be used as a follow-up to check the level of antibodies during a gluten-free diet.


How to Wash Out Gluten From the Body?

The different ways to cleanse the system from gluten are as follows:
Consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and organic meat.
Hydrating the body with water and fluids flush away the toxins.
Avoid triggering factors like certain foods that increase gluten sensitivity.
Probiotic-rich foods are taken to improve gut health.


What Is a Gluten Belly?

The intolerance to gluten products is also referred to as gluten belly or wheat belly. It is characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, smelly feces, depression, anxiety, headache, skin problems, and unexplained weight loss.


What Indicates That I Am Gluten or Dairy Intolerant?

Dairy or lactose intolerance means a person is sensitive to dairy products like milk, cheese, butter, etc. The symptoms of gluten and lactose are similar such as acid reflux, nausea, diarrhea, stomach pain, and skin problems. However, when a gluten-free diet is followed, the symptoms of lactose intolerance also resolve. The peculiar features of gluten intolerance are fatigue, anxiety, depression, hormonal imbalance, and infertility.


What Are the Foods to Avoid if I Am Gluten Intolerant?

The foods to be avoided by a person with gluten intolerance are listed down:
- Grains like wheat, barley, rye, Kamut, etc., are gluten-rich.
- White and whole wheat bread.
- Certain complementary foods like soy sauce, cream sauce, vinegar, ketchup, etc.
- Pastries, cookies, pasta, cakes containing wheat.
- Beverages and processed foods are labeled with gluten as an ingredient.


Which Foods Are Rich in Gluten?

Foods containing high amounts of gluten are bread, baked foods like cookies, pastries, doughnuts, biscuits and cakes, beverages like beer, premade chocolate milk, pasta, sauces, and other processed foods like meat, cheese, icecreams, and tofu.


How Does a Gluten Headache Feel?

It is found that gluten-containing foods can trigger headaches and anxiety, depression, and thinking disabilities in a few individuals. The headache may persist for two to three days and resolve independently.


Is Itchy Skin Caused by Gluten Intolerance?

Itchy skin or rash may occur after consuming gluten-rich foods in individuals with celiac disease. It is characterized by abnormal immune responses of the body to gluten products. The rash is itchier with a burning sensation. It can affect any part of the body, like the knees, thighs, elbows, lower back, and head. Itchy skin is more common in people with wheat allergy and celiac disease.


Can the Gluten Content in Bread Be Reduced by Toasting It?

The toasting of bread increases the fiber content but does not reduce the gluten content. However, the gluten structure is broken down at high temperatures (more than 260°C). The high temperature is not attained on toasting; therefore, the gluten remains unaltered even after.


What Are the Characteristics of Gluten-Intolerance Rash?

Gluten rash or dermatitis herpetiformis usually occurs in patients with celiac disease. The rash is itchy and looks red and raised. It appears on both sides of the body, mainly on the elbows, knees, lower back, and scalp. The face is rarely affected by the rash.

Article Resources

Last reviewed at:
08 Sep 2022  -  4 min read




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