Your Guide to Gluten-Sensitivity

gluten sensitivity facts and info

Gluten can be found in many everyday food products, including in a variety of less obvious foods that you wouldn’t even think to have gluten. However, many people experience an adverse reaction when consuming gluten, which can lead to a vast array of negative side effects including fatigue, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, unintentional weight loss, malnutrition and intestinal damage. Fortunately, a gluten-free diet can reduce and even eradicate many of these symptoms. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to do strict dieting, calorie counting, portion control or any of the nonsense commonly associated with “dieting”. Instead, it’s just about eliminating triggering foods, such as breads, baked goods, and cereals.

What is Gluten-Sensitivity?

Gluten sensitivity, or what is also referred to as gluten intolerance, is a health disorder that occurs when the body is unable to tolerate gluten, which is a protein found in grains such as barley, rye and wheat. It is not life-threatening but it can produce uncomfortable symptoms that have the potential to affect your daily life drastically. While it is similar to celiac disease, the two are separate conditions. The main difference is that celiac disease is a severe autoimmune disease that can damage a person’s digestive system. Gluten sensitivity, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to involve the immune system or cause damage to the gastrointestinal tract. However, new research suggests that gluten can cause brain damage in those with gluten sensitivity.

Symptoms of Gluten Sensitivity

Another key difference between gluten sensitivity and celiac disease is the severity of symptoms. People with celiac disease have significantly more intense symptoms than those who are dealing with an intolerance to gluten. However, gluten intolerance symptoms can still be uncomfortable and even disruptive to your daily life. A reaction to gluten typically occurs shortly after consuming gluten and can consist of a combination of symptoms that can affect various aspects of your physical, cognitive and mental health, including issues affecting the digestive tract, problems with the skin, anxiety, depression and many others.

Below is a list of the most commonly occurring symptoms experienced after someone with a gluten sensitivity eats glutinous foods.

Abdominal pain

While there are various causes that can lead to stomach pain, people with a gluten intolerance often complain of experiencing frequent abdominal pain with no other obvious reason.


Anemia caused by a gluten intolerance is known as iron-deficiency anemia. This is a condition that is characterized by a lack of functioning red blood cells and can make you experience weakness, fatigue, lightheadedness, shortness of breath or a fast heartbeat.


Various types of anxiety disorders have been linked to gluten intolerance. This can stem from persistent and intense worries that make it difficult to complete everyday tasks to intense panic attacks that trigger your flight or fight response unnecessarily.


A common reason for bloating is overeating but it can also happen for a number of different reasons, including gluten intolerance. Bloating is when you have the feeling of a stomach that is too full, leaving you feeling uncomfortable. You may also feel a buildup of gas.

Brain Fog

One of the many ways gluten intolerance can affect your cognitive health is with sluggish thinking or difficulty remembering things. You may also experience persistent forgetfulness or confusion, or simply, a lack of clarity.


Another mental health condition that can stem from gluten insensitivity is depression. This is a long-term feeling of sadness or emptiness that is often complemented with exhaustion, low energy, a loss of interest in activities and hopelessness.

Diarrhea and constipation

Getting the occasional episode of diarrhea or constipation is typically normal but experiencing them on most days indicates an underlying issue, such as gluten intolerance or celiac disease. Diarrhea is typically characterized as loose, watery stools that happen three or more times a day, whereas constipation is characterized by having three or fewer bowel movements each week or having hard, dry or lumpy stools that are different or painful to pass. You may also notice your poop to have a particularly unpleasant smell due to the poor nutrient absorption.


Fatigue is one of those symptoms that can be difficult to identify the root cause of, as it can have many and many are not related to any one medical condition. However, people suffering with gluten intolerance often have feelings of tiredness that is so intense that it impairs their daily functioning. It’s different from feeling tired, as no amount of sleep seems to make the weakness and tiredness go away. 


Experiencing headaches regularly could be caused by a sensitivity to gluten, as many report this is a common symptom.

Joint Pain

Joint pain results from the joints becoming stiff, which can feel like a dull ache or a sudden stabbing pain. This can be experienced in your knuckles, elbows, knees, shoulders, ankles or anywhere in the body where two bones meet.


Another common symptom experienced with gluten intolerance is nausea, which typically occurs after eating a meal that contains gluten. Like many of the symptoms mentioned, this one can have many causes but one strong indicator that it’s a gluten intolerance is if it’s often experienced after eating a meal.

The nausea can be so intense that you may even vomit after eating.

Skin Problems

Your skin may also show signs of gluten sensitivity. Many people who struggle with gluten intolerance complain of rashes similar to psoriasis or eczema.

Common Causes of Gluten Intolerance

The exact causes of a gluten intolerance are still up for debate, as it doesn’t have any typical markers that can be used for diagnosis. This is unlike celiac disease, which produces intestine damage that is used to diagnose the autoimmune disease. However, researchers have two main theories.

Fructans and Amylase Trypsin Inhibitors

Many researchers theorize that the problem may not be gluten at all but rather, in the other compounds found in grains, particularly from wheat, known as fructans and amylase trpsin inhibitors. Fructans are complex carbohydrates that ferment in your large intestine, which may potentially cause gas, bloating, cramping, pain, diarrhea, and constipation. Amylase trypsin inhibitors are proteins made by a plant to protect itself from insects. And while there’s no denying the benefits of a natural pest repellent, the problem with these proteins is that they cause inflammation in the intestines and several other places in the body. Researchers that have studied both of these compounds believe that they play a role in celiac disease, in non-celiac gluten intolerance, and possibly in other conditions that are caused by inflammation.


It would only make sense that gluten may be a potential cause of gluten intolerance. Some studies found that it can make people’s intestines leak and become inflamed, without causing celiac disease. When people were fed pure wheat gluten to see if the effects changed, the results were mixed. Another study showed an improvement in digestive symptoms but some of the participants did get depression.

Natural Remedies and Tips for Going Gluten-Free

If you’ve been struggling with gluten intolerance and are not diagnosed with celiac disease, reducing the amount of gluten you get in your diet and eventually cutting it out entirely can drastically improve your symptoms.  As such, your goal is to avoid all food that contains gluten, such as wheat, derivatives of wheat, barley, rye and brewer’s yeast.

Here are some quick tips to get you started on a gluten-free journey:

  • Focus on reduction first, before total elimination.
    • Cut back on the most common types of foods and drinks that contain gluten such as pasta, bread, pastries, baked goods, noodles, cereals, pancakes, waffles, biscuits, sauces, gravies, beers, and malt beverages.
    • Start with one gluten-free meal per day and slowly add in more.
  • Take a daily probiotic. Studies found that probiotics contain gluten hydrolysis enzymes which can be used to digest and destroy gluten in patients with gluten sensitivity.
  • Opt for gluten-free versions of bread, crackers, pasta, condiments, sauces and flour
  • Add natural supplements into your diet. Supplements such as calcium, vitamin D, B complex, Zinc and Magnesium have all been shown to help with gluten sensitivity.
  • Enjoy naturally gluten-free foods, such as fruits, vegetables, unprocessed meats, fish, eggs, potatoes, and other root veggies
  • Learn where to find gluten-free foods at the grocery store (you’ll be surprised at the different types of delicious items available to you!)
  • Discover (and avoid) gluten hiding in sauces, gravy, condiments, salad dressings, soups and alcohol
  • Read the labels. Gluten can be disguised under many different names and is sometimes labeled as caramel coloring, natural and artificial flavors, starches, and malt. Learn how to read the labels so you know what to cut out.
  • Drink gluten-free hard cider, beer, spirits or wines that don’t contain added flavors or colors.
  • Try some gluten-free recipes and find some that you love.

Whether you’ve recently discovered that you have gluten sensitivity or have long speculated that gluten doesn’t sit well with you, learning how to go gluten-free when it’s in everything can seem incredibly intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be so scary. Just follow the tips in this article to

adjust quickly, avoid common mistakes, and gradually shift to a gluten free diet!

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