What Are The Symptoms of Gluten Sensitivity?
The answer to this question can be different for different people. Gluten is often times referred to as a “medical hydra“. Why? Because gluten can cause a variety of problems. The classic thought, even in medicine today, is that gluten induced damage is isolated to the GI tract. This long standing misconception is problematic for many patients because it can delay a gluten sensitivity diagnosis for years.
Many doctors will not even consider gluten in the absence of gut issues even though research has found that extra-intestinal (symptoms outside of the gut) manifestations of gluten are extremely common. Understanding this, it is important to seek out a doctor with a level of clinical expertise above and beyond traditional medical training. (Gluten Free Society is accumulating a list of health care providers here <<<). In the following video, I break down several of the common symptoms of gluten sensitivity:
Below, I have comprised a list of symptoms of gluten related disorders along with links to research on the associations. It is important to remember that gluten can contribute to and cause a multitude of symptoms, but it is also important to note that gluten should not be considered a “cure all”. Though gluten can contribute to the symptoms and diseases on the list below, so too can other environmental factors. All that being said, let’s dive into some of the most common diseases and symptoms of gluten sensitivity…
Gluten Sensitivity & Brain/Neurological Disease
A number of research studies have linked gluten exposure to brain and neurological dysfunction. Some researchers believe that nerve damage caused by gluten is more common that celiac disease. Some of these conditions and symptoms include (follow the links to learn more):
- Migraine headache
- Epilepsy or seizures
- Cerebellar Ataxia
- Multiple Sclerosis
- ALS – Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
- Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
- Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) and other forms of chronic nerve pain
Gluten Sensitivity Causing Hormone & Organ Dysfunction
Gluten is a known to contribute to multiple forms of hormonal disease. Some of these include:
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
- Miscarriage and Infertility
- Liver Disease – including autoimmune hepatitis, non alcoholic fatty liver, and gall bladder inflammation.
- Pancreatic Problems
- PCOS – poly cystic ovarian syndrome
- Pituitary dysfunction
- Blood sugar problems – hypoglycemia and diabetes (both type I and type II)
Gluten Sensitivity & Musculoskeletal Pain Disorders
I wrote an entire book on the topic (No Grain No Pain). Contrary to popular belief, joint and muscle pain are not directly linked to aging. Many chronic pain sufferers make full recoveries after going gluten free. Some common muscle and joint conditions and symptoms linked to gluten exposure are:
- Arthritis – Rheumatoid, Lupus, Reiter’s, Ankylosing Spondylitis
- Migratory arthritis
- Muscle spasm, pain, and weight gain
Gluten Sensitivity & Skin Disease
Multiple forms of skin disease symptoms have been linked to gluten exposure.
Gluten Sensitivity Symptoms in the GI Tract
- Celiac Disease
- GERD (acid reflux disease)
- Intestinal Lymphoma (cancer)
- Intestinal pain and bloating
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – linked to both diarrhea and constipation
- Malabsorption leading to severe malnutrition (vitamin and mineral deficiencies)
Treating the Symptoms of Gluten Sensitivity With Drugs
As stated above, one of the biggest problems in medicine today is that physicians typically lack the knowledge of gluten induced problems outside of celiac disease. They are not trained to fully understand the symptoms of gluten sensitivity. This lack of knowledge typically leads to the broad application of using medicines to treat symptoms – i.e.
- Pain medications (opiods, steroids, NSAIDS, etc) to treat gluten induced pain syndromes –
- Immune suppressing drugs in the case of autoimmune diseases like lupus and RA.
- Headache medications
- Anti acids to treat GERD
- Antibiotics to treat skin inflammation
- Hormones to treat diabetes, thyroid problems, PMS or PMDD, infertility, PCOS, etc
This approach is dangerous for several reasons. Using medicine to mask symptoms does not lead to resolution of the problem. However; masking the symptoms leads to a complacent patient while allowing the underlying damage to continue. In essence the disease process goes unchecked leading to future complications. Using medications can lead to drug induced nutritional deficiencies. These deficiencies end up causing a whole new set of problems that lead to the use of even more medications. Using medications comes with the potential of creating “side effects” that either cause additional problems, or lead to adding even more medication to “treat the side effects”.
A recent study published in the British Medical Journal found traditional medical care to be the third leading cause of death in the US!
Bottom line – Now that you have a better understanding of the diverse symptoms of gluten sensitivity, take action. If you suspect gluten may be playing a role in your health condition, go grain free. You can take this free simple quiz to help you figure this out. There is no human requirement for grain. There is no danger of malnutrition when following a grain free diet. Contrary to what you may have heard from doctors or nutritionists, a grain free diet is completely safe to follow… and it might just save your life.
Now do me a favor – If you have already gone grain free and experienced a dramatic health improvement, share your story below in the comments.
Always looking out for you,
Dr. Osborne – The Gluten Free Warrior