I remember the day I tested positive for Celiac Disease. I was in my very early 20’s and I cried over my first gluten free peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I insisted the results were inaccurate. I was in straight denial and I did not want to believe it to be true. Let’s be real--a diagnosis like this is not easy for an Italian!!
For years, doctors misdiagnosed me. They claimed I simply had IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) but nothing was putting an end to my awful symptoms. I dealt with feelings of fatigue, I was constantly tired and I lacked the stamina of someone so young. I would eat, only to have to unbutton my pants immediately. My stomach would expand and my gut would swell. I couldn’t eat out in public and, if I did, I ALWAYS had to know where a bathroom was. It was awful, embarrassing, and super frustrating. Have you experienced anything similar? Don’t worry, you are not alone!
Here's what I've learned: Many signs and symptoms of a gluten allergy are digestive, skin and neurological issues. Of course, not everyone with these symptoms will have a gluten allergy, but the possibility is worth considering if your doctor can’t identify other potential reasons for your problems.
Today I’m sharing 8 things you can look out for in case you have been wondering if you too might need to nix the wheat. While all of these symptoms could lead to a diagnosis, having only one does not disqualify you. Your best bet is to keep an open mind, remain positive and realize you can totally live a happy and healthy life--even if you have to walk away from the wheat.
AND most--if not all--symptoms will resolve themselves once your diet has been changed. To me, that was more freeing than anything. Not having to rush to the bathroom immediately after I eat has been AMAZING too!!!
So let’s get on with it...
Symptom #1: Digestive Dysfunction
Not everyone with a gluten problem has digestive issues, but because so many do, this makes it to number one on this list. The problems can include diarrhea, constipation, reflux or simply abdominal pain. I can tell you, I experienced all of these and it wasn’t pretty. My body simply could not digest my food properly. And this wasn’t some random experience. It was at just about every single meal. NOT fun.
In some cases, people who have been diagnosed with IBS notice that their IBS diminishes or goes away entirely once they have eliminated gluten. For me, that was the case. So stay hopeful!
Symptom #2: Red, Itchy Bumps
People with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are prone to various forms of skin rashes. Perhaps the best known of these rashes is an autoimmune skin condition known as dermatitis herpetiformis, or DH for short. This is described as an intensely itchy rash that often “burns” and “stings” and appears as red, water-filled bumps. Thankfully, I never experienced this symptom but from what I’ve read, it’s completely get-rid-able if you switch up your diet and eliminate wheat.
Other rashes that can be associated with celiac disease are:
Symptom #3: Foggy Brain
Ok, ok, so if you’re a mama, you may be thinking, “Welcome to my world!”But the truth of the matter is, brain fog isn’t just from being busy. It’s symptoms include difficulty concentrating, short-term memory lapses, losing train of thought in conversations or when writing, and sometimes becoming confused or disoriented. Again, all symptoms of motherhood and a busy life in general!!! BUT don’t discount this one. What if changing your diet could make all this brain fog go away???
Symptom #4: Pounding Headaches
Most people get headaches every now and then, but if you experience headaches more frequently, you may want to consider gluten as the cause. Also, did you know migraines can be triggered by gluten? Yup. Something to think about…
To back up this up, a 2013 study in Headache found that 56 percent of people with gluten sensitivity, and 30 percent of those with celiac disease, suffered from chronic headaches compared to 14 percent of people in the control group. About 23 percent of those with inflammatory bowel disease also reported chronic headaches.
So, since certain foods can cause headaches and migraines in those who are susceptible, it's only logical to also consider gluten as a potential trigger.
Symptom #5: Pins & Needles
We all know that annoying feeling when our foot falls asleep or worse, our hand or our arm. It’s commonly caused by circulation being cut off to the area for an extended period of time. But people who have a gluten allergy may have permanent "pins and needles" in their arms, legs, or feet.
This is not a symptom I have experienced personally but I can imagine it is not pleasant. The persistent Peripheral Neuropathy occurs in up to fifty percent of people suffering from gluten intolerance. If this is you, realize that nerve damage can be difficult to heal. However, some studies have shown that you CAN slow or stop the damage by following a strict gluten free diet.
Symptom #6: ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
While this may be a touchy subject, it can be a relief to know that MANY people have found success reducing ADHD symptoms or eliminating them completely, simply by modifying their diet.
With the elimination of wheat and gluten, the elimination of un-nutritional, highly sugar, processed foods and food dyes also comes along with it. This combination has proven to be quite successful, and by incorporating therapeutic grade essential oils, many have found a winning combination.
Symptom #7: Depression & Anxiety
Many of us have a high stress life. In fact, if you surveyed a large group of people, a majority would admit to experiencing some sort of anxiety and depression. But if this is out of the ordinary for you, or a life event has not triggered this emotional response, you may want to consider the phrase, you are what you eat.
Surprisingly enough, many studies have found links between celiac disease, depression, and anxiety, both in adults and teens. There may also be links between these conditions and gluten ataxia, a neurological gluten allergy primarily involving loss of motor skills.
While about 18 percent of the overall U.S. adult population has an anxiety disorder and nearly 7 percent of U.S. adults have major depressive disorder, it’s worth the extra few minutes chatting with your doctor to see if your diet may be a contributing factor. What if simply changing what you eat could boost your mood? Combine that with some aromatherapy, and you could have your limbic system dancing for days!
Symptom #8: Infertility and Trouble Conceiving
This symptom was totally me. I also attribute it to my many years on birth control pills, as well as issues with ovarian cysts and endometriosis. BUT every little bit of our health eventually adds up and takes a toll. During the years I was trying to conceive, I had not eliminated wheat from my diet. It wasn’t until I was almost 28 years old that I finally gave up wheat--the struggle was definitely real!! While my body suffered, I lived in a mental state of denial. If this sounds like anything you’re dealing with, listen up.
There's a strong connection between infertility and celiac disease, which is perhaps the best-accepted form of gluten allergy. Both women and men who've been diagnosed with celiac disease are known to struggle with infertility. It's possible that celiac-associated malnutrition may play some role in this struggle, but doctors aren't entirely sure what causes infertility in people suffering from celiac.
From my years of studying a chemical free lifestyle, I can assure you that every environmental factor counts. Eliminating gluten is a start, and then addressing the chemicals in your environment (and I’m talking personal care products, cleaners, laundry detergents and dryer sheets to name a few) is a must. The average person is exposed to over 500 chemicals every single day--it’s time to start taking control and being the gatekeeper of what we put in and on our body.
The good news is if you're diagnosed with celiac disease, going gluten-free may help you conceive, as studies have shown that the gluten-free diet helps with fertility in both men and women. And eliminating the toxins from your life can start with just a few simple ditch and switches!
Thieves Concentrated Household Cleaner can eliminate EVERY chemical laden cleaner in your home, while the Thieves Laundry Detergent can easily snuff out those daily toxins laying on your skin all day long. Add in some organic wool dryer balls scented with your favorite essential oils, and choosing a diffuser over a scented candle or plug in are simple and cost effective ways to take charge of your health and home. Baby making, here we come!!!
In Conclusion: Could You Benefit from Living a Gluten-Free Life?
Now that we’ve identified 8 common symptoms of having a gluten allergy or intolerance, weigh these up against what you are currently experiencing. Do one, or two, or even all, apply to you? Could you benefit from living a gluten free life?
If so, you have 2 choices: Adjust your diet immediately to eliminate gluten and wheat altogether, OR go see your doctor for official testing and diagnosis. Realize that you DO need to be regularly consuming wheat to get a more accurate test result, AND, once you make those dietary changes, you should allow for a full 30 days off wheat to ensure it has officially been purged from your system.
So plan ahead, evaluate your body or even keep a diet journal to gain the insight needed to best accommodate YOUR body. And remember, a celiac diagnosis is not the end of the world. There are lots of healthy choices you can incorporate into your lifestyle to easily make the switch. I'll share with you some helpful tips in an upcoming blog post to keep you from crying over your next Gluten-Free PB&J! Until then, xo's. Krista