Going gluten-free is all the rage these days. And for good reason when you hear how it has turned some folk’s lives around. But how do you know if you are sensitive to gluten? Or if ditching gluten will help you?
We’ll go over the seven warning signs of a gluten sensitivity—and give you some simple advice on how to test out a gluten-free diet for yourself—in just a moment. But first let’s take a quick look at what gluten is.
Gluten is a protein naturally found in wheat and other grains such as barley, rye and oat. The protein essentially acts like a glue helping the grains, and foods made from them, hold their shape, while lending elasticity and texture.
Although gluten has gotten a bad rap, it’s not always a bad guy. Many people don’t have any trouble digesting the protein. But for some folks gluten is bad news.
97% of celiac sufferers are undiagnosed
About one percent of Americans have an inherited autoimmune condition called celiac disease that’s triggered by gluten. When folks with celiac disease eat foods containing gluten it triggers their immune system to attack the lining of their small intestine. The resulting inflammation can cause tissue damage and lead to malnutrition.
But 97 percent of those approximately three million celiac sufferers go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. In other words, there are a whole lot of folks walking around with this serious autoimmune condition without any clue they have it.
Which brings us to non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) which is sometimes called gluten intolerance. Researchers aren’t sure yet how many folks suffer from NCGS, but some experts believe it may be as many as six out of every 100 people.
7 signs you’re sensitive to gluten
When you have NCGS instead of having an immune response, like we see with celiac, you have a stress reaction. The most commonly reported symptoms for gluten sensitivity are…
- Brain fog
- Chronic, deep fatigue
- Gas, bloating
- Abdominal pain
- Joint pain
If you frequently experience any of these symptoms hours, or even days, after eating gluten you may have a gluten sensitivity.
Since the symptoms of celiac disease and NCGS can be very similar, if you do suspect you have either be sure to talk to your doctor. It’s important to determine if you have celiac so you begin treatment to prevent any further damage to your small intestine.
When you get the all clear your next step is to try out a gluten-free diet to see if it helps eliminate your symptoms. The big three sources of gluten are wheat, barley and rye. So they should be your focus as you begin removing the gluten from your diet.
But going gluten-free isn’t just about giving up bread. Sources of these three grains aren’t always obvious. In fact, they’re often hidden in everyday foods.
Many people are surprised to discover gluten is often lurking in these common foods:
- Pastas and most noodles
- Pretzels, and graham crackers
- Cereals and granola
- French fries and potato chips
Be on the lookout for wheat in…
- Baked goods
- Salad dressings
Barley is often hiding in the following foods…
- Food coloring
- Brewer’s yeast
And rye is typically found in…
- Rye and pumpernickel bread
- Rye beer
This by no means is an exhaustive list, either. So if you decide to give gluten-free a try, make sure you read your labels carefully. Many grocery stores have gluten-free sections now so it’s easier than ever to test out a gluten-free diet.
If you do have NCGS once you remove gluten-containing foods from your diet completely you should start to see—and feel—the results fairly quickly. But just don’t be fooled into thinking that gluten-free translates into “healthy.”
Gluten-free cookies aren’t any healthier than their gluten-filled counterparts. And if you don’t have celiac disease or NCGS, giving up gluten won’t make you feel any better, lose any weight or be any healthier.