Many people are under the impression that all gluten reactions are only felt in the digestive tract, which is a false belief. Gluten does wreak havoc on the gut lining, and the health of your digestive system is directly linked to the health of your whole body (read more). However, the immediate symptoms of celiac disease and other gluten-sensitive reactions may occur in other parts of the body, or may not be felt at all. Symptoms vary depending on a person's age and the degree of damage to the small intestine.
In the short term, gluten-sensitive individuals must deal with the symptoms from exposure to gluten. In the long term, they must cope with the resulting health problems and complications that have been caused by the immune response by the body from gluten over time. Some individuals show no symptoms at all, yet develop complications from gluten due to long term exposure. Many adults have a gluten-related disorder for a decade or more before they are diagnosed. The longer an individual goes undiagnosed with a gluten-related disorder (and appropriate treatment), the more likely they are to develop long term health concerns. Healing a leaky gut is a top priority.
Symptoms in Children:
Digestive symptoms are more common in infants and young children and may include abdominal bloating and pain, chronic diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, pale, foul-smelling, or fatty stool, and weight loss. Irritability is another common symptom in children. A child's normal growth and development can be effected by the malabsorption of nutrients. This can result in other problems such as failure to thrive in infants, delayed growth and puberty, and dental defects.
Symptoms in Adults:
Symptoms in adults are less likely to be digestive, and instead include just some of the following:
Have brain fog? Many times the brain is the target of gluten. According to Dr. Tom O'Bryan on the Dr. Lo radio show, every neurological or mental disorder has been at one time linked to gluten sensitivity. This includes conditions such as depression, anxiety, headaches, ADHD, autism, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease, etc. General brain fog from gluten is quite common.
Long term complications in adults are also due to malnutrition, which can lead to anemia, osteoporosis, miscarriage, and other serious problems including liver diseases and cancers of the intestine. People with gluten sensitivity tend to have other immune related diseases. They can include: type 1 diabetes, autoimmune thyroid disease, autoimmune liver disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Addison's disease, and Sjögren's syndrome.
Many of the symptoms of gluten exposure may likely decrease or disappear with a 100% gluten-free diet. However, because varying degrees of intestinal damage and the large amount of varying complications, it is vital to be educated about a healthy gluten-free diet in conjunction with other treatments by health professionals. Individuals will need to become aware of their specific nutrient deficiencies and then their appropriate nutritional needs can be addressed in a gluten-free nutrition program. To find a qualified practitioner or for more gluten education, you may want to start with the Gluten Intolerance Group at www.gluten.org.
Gluten sensitivity can be genetic. If someone in your family is known to have a sensitivity, it is smart to question if you may also.
On a personal note, I felt no immediate symptoms when I ate gluten. But, I'm 100% gluten free because many people in my family have gluten reactions, plus neurological or mental disorders that are suspected to be gluten related (Parkinson's, Schizophrenia, Multiple Sclerosis). I'm gluten-free to hopefully avoid that in my future. --Jenny
The Au Naturale Nutrition series on Gluten:
Celiac Disease - National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, a service of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). (2012, January 27). Home - National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. from http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/celiac/index.aspx#symptoms
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