Are You Gluten Intolerant?

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We previously discussed how gluten-free foods are no healthier than their gluten-containing counterparts, for anyone who does not have a gluten allergy, and you can read more about how gluten free products have become a marketing fad for food companies here. That being said, a small number of us (around 1 out of 150) do suffer from gluten intolerance, and in some more advanced cases, clinically defined celiac disease. Celiac disease is a small intestine autoimmune disease, and is genetically inherited. Watch out for the signs below to find out if you are gluten intolerant or not.

Dysfunctional Digestion
Digestive issues in people with gluten intolerance can range from constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux, to just general abdominal pain. If this happens consistently after each time you eat bread, pasta, or pastries, it is possible that gluten intolerance is the cause of your digestive issues.

Dry, Scaly Skin
If you have strong a gluten intolerance or coeliac disease and continue to eat gluten your gut lining will become damaged by excess inflammation in the region. This will lead to below average absorption of essential fatty acids, vitamin A, and vitamin B12. Deficiencies in any of these nutrients will lead to skin dryness and itchiness.

Anemia
Untreated coeliac disease damages the parts of your intestine where folic acid and iron get absorbed, two micronutrients which are essential for healthy red blood cells and prevention of anemia. Anemia is not a sure cause of gluten intolerance, however, if you have long term anemia that does not improve with an increase in your diet quality, it can be a warning sign that you are not absorbing the nutrients you are taking in optimally.

Hormonal Imbalances
Gluten sensitivity leads to chronic inflammation in the body, which leads to elevated insulin levels in the body. High insulin levels promote production of excess testosterone which can lead to hormonal imbalances, irregular menstrual cycles, and infertility problems.

So, if you have one or more of the symptoms above, how do you find out if you are really gluten intolerant? If you have celiac disease, a simple blood test at your doctor’s will rule the issue out for you.

However, if you have a milder case of gluten intolerance, it is a little trickier to figure out. The best way of knowing if your body has problems with gluten is to take it out of your diet for at least 4 weeks, and slowly start reintroducing it back in. During this 4 week period it is important to eliminate gluten 100%. Gluten is found in bread, pasta, and confectionary pastries but can also be included in vegetable stock cubes, soy sauce, and salad dressings. Always check the label if you are unsure.  If your symptoms start improving during the elimination period and worsen as you slowly re-introduce gluten back into your diet then you will know if you’re suffering from an intolerance.

Donia Hilal is a certified nutritionist with a degree in Nutrition from King’s College London. Her work focuses on women’s health in the Middle East, wellness, weight loss, and optimal pre- and post-natal nutrition. Passionate about real food and evidence based nutrition advice, Donia welcomes and enjoys guiding clients throughout every stage of their journey towards a healthier, happier life.

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