Gluten is a type of protein that is very complex, and hence is very difficult to digest. This is the reason why babies are not given wheat when they are first introduced to solid foods. They are given a thin porridge made of rice, which their immature digestive tract can handle easily.
Gluten intolerance is acknowledged as a food intolerance, and is also known as gluten allergy, or celiac disease, and is usually inherited, with some people being born with the condition. If the diagnosis of gluten allergy is not made at infancy, it just worsens with age. Gluten allergy is basically a condition wherein the gluten found in various types of food cannot be absorbed. The main foods that contain gluten are: wheat, oats, barley, and rye. All types of wheat grain such as wheat bran, whole wheat grain, triticale, spelt, and so on, contain gluten.
As a matter of fact, in people with celiac disease this protein actually causes damage to the small intestine by flattening out the villi, tiny protrusions that are responsible for the absorption of nutrients, which line its walls.
What are the Gluten Intolerance Symptoms?
In case you have gluten allergy, the protein will damage the walls of your intestines, which will result in restricting the absorption of foods, and lead to various gluten allergy symptoms, such as: headaches; ulcers in the mouth; weight loss or weight gain; skin problems like eczema and dermatitis; aching joints; depression; exhaustion; behavioral changes which includes irritability; cramps, numbness and tingling; dental health problems; and being prone to disease due to the immune system being affected.
However, the most well known and common symptoms of gluten intolerance are gastro-intestinal, such as:
- Abdominal pain
- Dyspepsia (an uncomfortable sensation or pain in the upper area of the stomach)
- Diarrhea (possibly the symptom that is the most major)
- Fat excreted in stools (because of poor digestion)
Some of the other gluten allergy symptoms are: anemia, due to poor absorption of iron as well as reduced absorption of Vitamin B12, fatigue, and breathlessness.
Some of the other conditions associated with gluten allergy are irregular menstruation, infertility and miscarriage, as well as slow growth in infants and children.
How is the Diagnosis of Gluten Allergy made?
Until quite recently the diagnosis of gluten allergy was quite challenging since the symptoms are so varied as well as similar to other ailments, such as intestinal infection, irritable bowel syndrome, iron deficiency, chronic fatigue, and Crohn’s disease. As a matter of fact, there could be a cross over between gluten allergy and a few of these diseases. A person may have a combination of these problems, which can be aggravated by inappropriate food choices.
These days, physicians carry out tests to check for elevated levels of autoantibodies in the blood of patients. The body produces these when it detects any dangerous allergen, such as gluten. In case the results of the test indicate a gluten allergy, the physician may carry out a biopsy of the intestine, which will reveal what damage has been caused to the villi. Before going for the test, it is important to eat a normal diet that includes foods containing gluten.