How do I know if I am Gluten Intolerant?

a woman saying no to bread

You’ll recall our last blog post about what that pesky protein that’s got everyone all up in a bother about? As the latest diet fads continue to bombard us through the media, we wanted to address the symptoms of gluten intolerance that manifest in those who actually might suffer from an allergy or an intolerance.

What is a Gluten Allergy?

In celiac disease, the small intestine launches an autoimmune response to gluten when eaten, resulting in the destruction of the small intestine. The disease is hereditary, being diagnosed definitively with blood work done by a physician. Symptoms of celiac disease include chronic bloating, diarrhea, severe abdominal pain, malnutrition, weight loss, anemia, muscle and joint pain and skin rash.

If you suspect you have celiac, you should be evaluated by a physician who will screen for the presence of IgA and IgG antibodies and discuss your symptoms with you. The gold standard for a confirmation of celiac is an intestinal biopsy, but given that this test is expensive and painful, it is not often used; although capsules are becoming more available that can serve the same purpose as a biopsy.

A confirmed diagnosis of celiac disease requires lifelong adherence to a strict gluten free diet. Those who continue to eat gluten have increased risk of lymphoma and other morbidities. Symptoms of celiac generally resolve within 2-8 weeks, but sometimes it may take longer but with strict dietary control, antibodies are generally undetected within 3-6 months in most people.

Allergy Versus Intolerance:

Aside from Celiac Disease, there are other degrees of gluten sensitivity disorders such as irritable bowel syndromes, or IBS.

IBS is a functional gastrointestinal disorder affecting the large intestine. With IBS there is no physical tissue damage as with Celiac, but the large intestine is abnormal. Symptoms include constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, abdominal pain, fatigue, and mood alterations and can affect 10-20% of the population.

Abdominal distention from gas buildup, a byproduct of poorly absorbed foods, is a pervasive complaint amongst those with IBS. Additionally, diarrhea also tends to be a symptom, since large particles of undigested food present in the large intestine will draw in water to attempt to move out the buildup of food waste.

If you do in fact have celiac, or a gluten sensitivity, or suspect you might, discuss testing with your physician. For our part, contact one of our Registered Dietitians today for help with meal planning around gluten-free products to assist with your weight loss and healthy lifestyle goals.


About Irritable Bowel Syndrome. (Sept 28, 2015). International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders.

Biesiekierski, J.R., Peters, S.L., Newnham, E.D., Rosella, O., Muir, J.G., Gibson, P.R. (2013). No effects of gluten in patients with self-reported non-celiac gluten sensitivity after dietary reduction of fermentable, poorly absorbed, short-chain carbohydrates. Gastroenterology 145(2):320-8.e1-3.

Biesiekierski, J.R., Newnham, E.D., Shepherd, S.J., Muir, J.G., Gibson, P.R. (2014). Characterization of adults with self-diagnosis of nonceliac gluten sensitivity. Nutrition in Clinical Practice, 29(4):504-509.

Mahan, L. K., & Escott-Stump, S. (2008). Krause’s food & nutrition therapy. Chapter 27. St. Louis, MO: Saunders/Elsevier.

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