Gluten intolerance and Celiac disease are notoriously under-diagnosed conditions that can wreak havoc on your health. One out of 133 Americans has Celiac disease, a genetically inherited autoimmune disease, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation.
But people who have a gluten intolerance or gluten allergy, which are not genetically inherited, also discover it is often difficult to pin down a diagnosis, because their symptoms can fluctuate and often seem unrelated to gastrointestinal health. But much like Celiac disease, the health consequences are serious and long-lasting.
Sometimes the mysterious symptoms you have been noticing for months or years are mild, uncomfortable, or just chronically annoying. You may not have ever considered whether they were related to your diet, or thought they were serious enough to warrant a trip to the doctor’s office.
However, instead of treating the symptoms, a closer examination of your daily diet and your body’s response to certain foods may actually point to a gluten allergy or intolerance.
Here are five not-so-obvious signs of gluten intolerance that you could be missing:
- You’re a full-grown adult but you still have breakouts like a teenager: Your skin is the body’s biggest organ and provides a window into your internal health. That may be why Dr. Alessio Fasano, at the University of Maryland’s Center for Celiac Research argues that persistent acne is a sign of inflammation from gluten that can affect other organs.
- You wake up feeling sluggish, you’re fatigued all day, and never feel rested: If you aren’t burning the midnight oil every night and you are still hitting the snooze button repeatedly ever morning, your diet may actually be to blame. A gluten-filled diet can not only induce fatigue in someone with gluten intolerance, it can actually disrupt your sleep patterns and create a feeling of general malaise, according to studies.
- You suffer from mood issues, anxiety, depression, or ADD. A gluten intolerance or allergy might not create anxiety or depression out of thin air, but they can certainly make symptoms worse. A 2010 study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) cited “significant concerns about increased rates of psychological symptoms and mental disorders in celiacs” patients.
- You mysteriously suffer from join pain in your hands, knees, or hips: Join pain can be signs of several different autoimmune diseases. If you’re not hitting the heavy weights, logging serious miles running, or suffering from arthritis, the inflammatory response from a gluten intolerance may be one reason your system is triggering a reaction in your joints.
- You are plagued by frequent headaches and migraines: The causes of migraines are various and mysterious, but some studies have made a connection between an increased rate of headaches and migraines in Celiac patients, compared to the general population. In a 2001 study, Dr. Marios Hadjivassiliou from the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in the UK documented patients actually lessening their migraine symptom by following gluten-free diets.
Gluten intolerance and Celiac disease may sound interchangeable, but their causes, expressions, and diagnoses can be drastically different. For Celiac disease the gold star for diagnosis is a small bowel biopsy.
Before getting to that point, your doctor will want to take a blood test to look for certain antibodies in your system. Other signals your physician will look for include your own account of how your feel and how your body reacts to your lifestyle and diet.
Carefully track your responses to meals and keep tabs on all your symptoms, even if they don’t appear to be related to your gastrointestinal tract. By examining the entire picture, your doctor will be able to better diagnose whether a gluten intolerance is hiding in plain sight.