Gluten intolerance, also known as celiac disease, is a digestive disorder that affects the small intestine. It occurs when the body is unable to properly digest gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. When gluten is consumed, the immune system responds by attacking the small intestine, causing damage to the lining and leading to a range of unpleasant symptoms.
Symptoms of gluten intolerance can vary greatly from person to person, but some common ones include:
- Digestive issues: Gluten intolerance can cause a range of digestive issues, including abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation.
- Nutrient deficiency: The damage to the small intestine caused by gluten intolerance can lead to nutrient deficiencies, including deficiencies in iron, calcium, and vitamin D.
- Fatigue: Many people with gluten intolerance experience chronic fatigue, which can be due to nutrient deficiencies and the strain on the body caused by the immune system attacking the small intestine.
- Skin problems: Gluten intolerance can cause a range of skin issues, including rash, dermatitis herpetiformis (a blistering skin condition), and alopecia (hair loss).
- Mental health issues: Some people with gluten intolerance experience mood changes, including depression, anxiety, and irritability.
- Headaches: Gluten intolerance can cause headaches and migraines.
- Joint pain: Some people with gluten intolerance experience joint pain and swelling.
- Mouth sores: Gluten intolerance can cause mouth sores, also known as oral aphthous ulcers.
- Anemia: The damage to the small intestine caused by gluten intolerance can lead to anemia, a condition in which there are not enough red blood cells to deliver oxygen to the body’s tissues.
- Growth delays: Children with gluten intolerance may experience delays in growth and development.
While these symptoms can be unpleasant, the good news is that gluten intolerance is treatable. The first step in treating gluten intolerance is to follow a gluten-free diet, which means eliminating all sources of gluten from your diet. This can be challenging, as gluten is found in a wide range of foods, including bread, pasta, cereals, and many processed foods.
To make following a gluten-free diet easier, it’s helpful to educate yourself about which foods contain gluten and to read labels carefully. There are also many gluten-free alternatives available, including gluten-free bread, pasta, and cereals, which can make it easier to follow a gluten-free diet.
It’s also important to work with a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need while following a gluten-free diet. Nutrient deficiencies can occur when following a gluten-free diet, so it’s important to pay attention to your intake of iron, calcium, and other nutrients.
In addition to following a gluten-free diet, some people with gluten intolerance may also benefit from taking medications to help manage their symptoms. These medications can help to reduce inflammation and improve nutrient absorption.
If you’re experiencing symptoms that may be related to gluten intolerance, it’s important to speak with a healthcare provider. A healthcare provider can help to determine the cause of your symptoms and recommend the best course of treatment.
While living with gluten intolerance can be challenging, following a gluten-free diet and working with a healthcare provider can help to manage your symptoms and improve your overall health. With the right treatment plan, it’s possible to live a healthy, happy life despite having gluten intolerance.