What is sometimes called a gluten allergy is actually gluten intolerance. A food allergy is a reaction of the immune system, whereas when the body reacts to gluten (a protein found in wheat and other grains), it is actually a gastrointestinal reaction.
The symptoms of gluten intolerance vary from person to person, which is one of the reasons it's difficult to diagnose. Some of the physical symptoms of gluten intolerance include abdominal pain, gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. As a result of these gastrointestinal symptoms, a sufferer of gluten intolerance may experience weight loss, anemia and under-consumption or malabsorption of nutrients. Weakness, chronic fatigue, and memory and concentration problems may ensue as well.
In addition to the gastrointestinal symptoms and the issues they cause, other symptoms of gluten intolerance include skin irritation, headaches, joint pain, muscle cramps and neurological complaints, including tingling or numbness in the hands and feet and even seizures. Gluten intolerance can also cause irritability, behavior changes and depression, as well as infertility and fetal loss. In children, gluten intolerance may cause poor weight gain, failure to thrive, short stature or delayed puberty.
A decline in your dental health, your iron levels and your bone density may be warning signs that you should get checked out for gluten intolerance. You might also want to get checked out if you have elevated live- function test results, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, type I diabetes or an autoimmune thyroid disease, which all put you at greater risk for gluten intolerance.
If they go undiagnosed for a long time, food intolerances, including gluten intolerance, are known to contribute to the development of diseases such as anemia, osteoporosis, diabetes and even bowel cancer. So if you have any concerns or suspicions, it is imperative that you consult with your physician to find out whether you have a gluten intolerance or celiac disease, which is related.