7 Common Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance

7 Common Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance

Gluten intolerance or the non-celiac gluten sensitivity has some symptoms similar to that of a celiac disease but is generally less severe. It can still lead to a certain level of discomfort and people may even have to acquire some lifestyle changes to manage them.

It is quite common to confuse the symptoms of gluten intolerance with those of the celiac disease, but remember that these are two different problems. Celiac disease refers to an autoimmune issue which has the tendency to damage the digestive system of the patient.

In contrast to celiac disease, however, it has not been clear why the symptoms of a gluten intolerance occur, but it is known that this somehow involves the immune system and the damage to the digestive tract.

It is also quite common to mix a case of gluten intolerance with a wheat allergy.

A wheat allergy can cause a life-threatening situation as some of its symptoms severely disrupt the normal breathing mechanism and may even lead to loss of consciousness. These symptoms do not occur in gluten intolerance or celiac disease.

The symptoms of gluten intolerance are generally said to be less severe as compared to the symptoms of a celiac disease or a case of wheat allergy. Also, people do not tend to know much about this condition either.

This article will outline seven different symptoms that the people usually suffer from during an attack of gluten intolerance.

Seven Major Symptoms of a Gluten Intolerance

Most of these symptoms occur right after consuming a food item containing gluten, However, they may vary in combinations.

People who report suffering from gluten intolerance often note the following symptoms as some of the commonest ones to occur as soon as they eat any food with gluten.

  1. Constipation and Diarrhea

Those who suffer from a gluten intolerance often complain of diarrhea and constipation among the commonest symptoms.

Having these problems occasionally is normal but suffering from them every other day can indicate a possible problem.

The patients with celiac disease also suffer from constipation and diarrhea. Their poop also usually smells unpleasant mostly because of the poor nutrient absorption.

  1. Bloating

Another very common symptom that the people with gluten intolerance suffer from is bloating. Bloating actually refers to a feeling in which your stomach feels so full that it causes discomfort. You may also feel as if your abdomen is filled with gases.

One of the most common causes of bloating is over-eating; however, it can also happen due to a number of other reasons. In people suffering from gluten intolerance, the feeling of bloating can occur quite regularly and is not always associated with the quantity of food they consume.

  1. Abdominal Pain

There can be a lot of causes of abdominal pain. However, those with gluten intolerance often suffer from it in a much higher frequency. There appears to be no other obvious reason for this pain as well.

  1. Fatigue

Fatigue is another common symptom of gluten intolerance that is really hard to identify. This is because fatigue can have different causes, some of which may not even be related to any medical problem.

People suffering from gluten intolerance tend to have persistent feelings of extreme tiredness and lethargy. Sometimes, it gets so much that it starts impairing their daily functions.

  1. Nausea

Nausea is also a common complaint of the people suffering from gluten intolerance. This is particularly more marked when you consume a meal high in gluten.

Generally speaking, nausea can have different causes but if you are experiencing it right after consuming a gluten-rich diet, you should get yourself checked for gluten intolerance.

  1. Headaches

Experiencing headaches may be another symptom that you have developed an intolerance towards gluten and any foods that contain it.

  1. Other Symptoms

In addition to the symptoms explained above, there are a lot of other signs that a patient with gluten intolerance may suffer from. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Pain in muscles and joints
  • Psychological problems such as anxiety and depression
  • Severe pain in the abdomen
  • Confusion
  • Anemia

How is it Diagnosed?

If you have developed the symptoms described above, the first thing to ensure is if it is really a case of gluten intolerance and not other severe conditions such as wheat allergy or celiac disease.

For further confirmation, usually, blood sampling is required. A sample of your blood is taken which is then analyzed to check for the presence of any antibodies. In case these are present, you are most probably suffering from a wheat allergy or celiac disease.

Sometimes, some additional testing is also required just to be sure that the problem you are suffering from is not a more dangerous type of disease.

Once your doctor has successfully ruled out the possibility of celiac disease or wheat allergy, it may still be difficult for them to confirm whether or not you have developed gluten intolerance. Why is this so?

Because there are no specific tests present for the detection of gluten intolerance.


The most common way to check if a person has developed gluten intolerance is by reducing or completely removing gluten from a diet. This is followed by a close investigation in order to monitor the severity of the symptoms i.e. whether they reduce or completely resolve.

It is important for you to keep a food diary with yourself and record whatever food items you are consuming and what effects are they imposing on your symptoms and general health.

What Foods must be Avoided?

People who suffer from gluten intolerance must try their best to avoid any food that contains gluten in it. Such types of food usually include:

  • Wheat and all of its derivates such as spelt
  • Rye
  • Barley and malt
  • Brewer’s yeast which is commonly made from beer

This rule of eliminating gluten can actually make you avoid a lot of foods and drinks. The food items that have the above-mentioned ingredients in their composition and, therefore, must be avoided include:

  • Bread
  • Pastries
  • Pasta
  • Baked goods
  • Crackers
  • Noodles
  • Cereals
  • Biscuits
  • Waffles, pancakes, and crepes
  • Malt beverages
  • Beer
  • A lot of gravies and sauces

RELATED: Does Alcohol Contain Gluten?

Should You Cut Down on Gluten or Completely Eliminate it?

It is important for you to be aware that celiac disease is rare and only affects about 1 percent of the total population.

In a similar manner, some estimates indicate that the prevalence of gluten intolerance comes out to be around 0.5 percent to 13 percent of the population.

These conditions are rare but the symptoms they cause are widespread and may have multiple causes. This means that anything can be easily mistaken for gluten intolerance.

The problem gets worse by certain dieting trends that suggest that gluten is, in general, harmful to the health.

There is not sufficient research to make suggestions whether the intake of gluten must be reduced or completely avoided in people who suffer from gluten intolerance. It is also not known whether doing so will actually help these people who do not have a medical condition like a wheat allergy or celiac disease.

Nancy Walker

Nancy holds a Medicine degree and a Masters of Science MS in Infectious Disease and Global Health (MS-IDGH) from Tufts University. She worked as a lecturer for three years before she turned towards medical writing. Her area of interest are infectious diseases; causes, mechanism, diagnosis, treatments and prevention strategies. Most of her writings ensure an easy understanding of uncommon diseases.

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