Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. While many people have no problem with ingesting gluten, the number of people who do is on the rise. In fact, it’s estimated that about 18 million Americans have a sensitivity to gluten.
Celiac Disease Versus Gluten Sensitivity
Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune condition. If you have Celiac disease and eat gluten, your body will respond by attacking your small intestine. If the damage gets too severe, it will interfere with your ability to properly absorb nutrients.
Gluten sensitivity has only recently recognized by the medical community, and while symptoms of this condition are similar to Celiac disease, they’re also less severe.
Symptoms of Gluten Sensitivity
People with this condition don’t all experience reactions to gluten in exactly the same way. There can be a wide range of symptoms, but some of the most common include:
- Bloating and Gas
- Brain Fog (Difficulty Concentrating)
- Diarrhea or Constipation
- Joint Pain
- Numbness or Tingling in the Legs, Arms or Fingers
- Stomach Pain or Nausea
Diagnosing and Treating Gluten Sensitivity
Scientists have not yet found biomarkers for gluten sensitivity, which means there’s no test to diagnose the condition. If you experience symptoms after eating gluten, see your doctor. Together you can discuss your symptoms and family history.
Doctors often recommend testing for Celiac disease and a wheat allergy first. Once those conditions can be ruled out, your doctor will typically recommend trying a gluten-free diet. If your symptoms go away after eliminating gluten, this can confirm a gluten sensitivity.
While it can seem like a good idea to start eliminating gluten from your diet without making an appointment with your doctor, testing for Celiac disease or a wheat allergy first is extremely important. Both conditions are very serious and will require the supervision of a doctor, so it’s a good idea to take this crucial step to ensure you receive the whole-person care you need.