50 Shades of Gluten (Intolerance) | Chris Kresser
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50 Shades of Gluten (Intolerance)

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Gluten intolerance can show up in varying degrees of severity. Comstock Images/Stockbyte/Thinkstock

This article was first featured at The Huffington Post. Click here to see the original article.

Celiac disease (CD) was initially described in the first century A.D. by a Greek physician named Aretaeus of Cappadocia. (1) But neither Aretaeus nor anyone else knew that CD is caused by an autoimmune reaction to gluten, a protein in wheat. That didn’t become clear until 1950 — several centuries later — when Dr. Willem Dicke, a Dutch pediatrician, conclusively proved that gluten was the culprit. (2) Dicke’s discovery saved millions of children and adults from the perils of untreated celiac disease, including malnutrition, stunted growth, cancer, severe neurological and psychiatric illness and even death.

Since then, the mainstream view of gluten intolerance has been relatively black or white: Either you have celiac disease, in which case even a small amount of gluten will send you running to the bathroom in three seconds flat, or you don’t, and you can chug down beer and bagels without fear. This “all-or-nothing” view has led to some doctors telling patients that suspect they’re sensitive to gluten but test negative for CD that they’re simply imagining an affliction that doesn’t exist.

It turns out those doctors are wrong.

The Many Shades of Gluten Intolerance

In order to explain why, I have to give you a quick lesson in the biochemistry of wheat and wheat digestion.

Wheat contains several different classes of proteins. Gliadins and glutenins are the two main components of the gluten fraction of the wheat seed. (They’re essential for giving bread the ability to rise properly during baking.) Within the gliadin class, there are four different epitopes (i.e. types): alpha-, beta-, gamma- and omega-gliadin. Wheat also contains agglutinins (proteins that bind to sugar) and prodynorphins (proteins involved with cellular communication). Once wheat is consumed, enzymes in the digestive tract called tissue transglutaminases (tTG) help to break down the wheat compound. In this process, additional proteins are formed, including deamidated gliadin and gliadorphins (aka gluteomorphins).

Here’s the crucial thing to understand: Celiac disease is characterized by an immune response to a specific epitope of gliadin (alpha-gliadin) and a specific type of transglutaminase (tTG-2). But we now know that people can (and do) react to several other components of wheat and gluten — including other epitopes of gliadin (beta, gamma, omega), glutenin, WGA and deamidated gliadin — as well as other types of transglutaminase, including type 3 (primarily found in the skin) and type 6 (primarily found in the brain). (345678)

This is a huge problem because conventional lab testing for CD and of gluten intolerance only screens for antibodies to alpha-gliadin and transglutaminase-2. If you’re reacting to any other fractions of the wheat protein (e.g., beta-gliadin, gamma-gliadin or omega-gliadin), or any other types of transglutaminase (e.g., type 3 or type 6), you’ll test negative for CD and gluten intolerance no matter how severely you’re reacting to wheat.

Beyond Celiac: Why CD Is Just the Tip of the Iceberg

Official statistics suggest that Celiac disease affects between 0.7 percent and 1 percent of the U.S. population. (9) But considering the limited scope of the testing, it’s possible that the actual incidence might be much higher.

In addition, CD is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to gluten intolerance. Celiac disease is caused by a distinct autoimmune response to wheat proteins and transglutaminase enzymes in the gut. But CD is just one possible expression of gluten intolerance; there are many other ways that sensitivity to gluten can manifest in the body. These are collectively referred to as “Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity,” or NCGS.

There’s no consensus definition of NCGS yet, but the most common understanding is that it’s a reaction to gluten that is not autoimmune (like CD) or allergic (like wheat allergy). Another definition I’ve seen is, “a reaction to gluten that resolves when gluten is removed from the diet and CD and allergy have been ruled out.” (10)

It’s difficult to estimate the prevalence of NCGS because there is no definitive diagnostic test for it. As I mentioned above, the currently available tests for gluten sensitivity are primitive and only screen for a small fraction of the components of wheat that people react to. Another issue is the variety of symptoms caused by CD and NCGS. While most people assume that gluten intolerance always causes digestive distress, this is not the case. Almost 50 percent of new patients diagnosed with CD do not have gastrointestinal symptoms. (11) Moreover, for every one case of CD that is diagnosed, there are 6.4 cases that remain undiagnosed — the majority of which are atypical or silent forms without gastrointestinal symptoms. (12)

Gluten intolerance can affect nearly every tissue in the body, including the brain, skin, endocrine system, stomach, liver, blood vessels, smooth muscles and even the nucleus of cells. CD and NCGS are associated with an astonishing variety of diseases, from schizophrenia and epilepsy, to Type 1 diabetes and osteoporosis, to dermatitis and psoriasis, to Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism to peripheral neuropathy. (13) Because the range of symptoms associated with gluten intolerance is so broad and nonspecific (e.g., can be attributed to any number of conditions), many patients and doctors don’t suspect gluten may be the cause.

Even with these limitations, some estimates suggest NCGS may occur in as many as 1 in 20 Americans. (14) And while some mainstream medical professionals continue to insist that NCGS doesn’t exist, several studies have validated it as a distinct clinical condition — including gold-standard, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials. (15)

The Gluten-Free Challenge: Still the Best Test for Gluten Intolerance

With all of this in mind, the obvious question that arises is, “What’s the best way to test for gluten intolerance?” Because of the limitations of current laboratory testing I described above, most experts on gluten sensitivity agree that the only reliable test is a “gluten challenge.” This involves removing gluten from the diet completely for a period of at least 30 days, and then adding it back in after that. If symptoms improve during the elimination period, and return when gluten is reintroduced, a diagnosis of NCGS can be made.

However, for many people a gluten-free diet isn’t enough. Some grains that don’t contain gluten, such as corn, oats and rice, contain proteins that are similar enough in structure to gluten to elicit an immune response in people with CD or NCGS. In addition, about 50 percent of patients with CD show signs of intolerance to casein, the protein in milk. (16) This may explain why up to 30 percent of CD patients continue to have symptoms or clinical signs after adopting a gluten-free diet. (17) For this reason, I recommend a completely grain- and dairy-free diet during the gluten challenge period.

Finally, though the gluten challenge is still the gold standard test for gluten intolerance, there is a relatively new lab (Cyrex Laboratories) offering a comprehensive blood test which screens for all of the wheat and gluten proteins and transglutaminase enzymes I mentioned above. This can be a helpful diagnostic tool, but it should never replace a gluten/Paleo challenge. (Note: It must be ordered by a physician or health care practitioner.)

Now I’d like to hear from you. Do you suspect you may have gluten intolerance? If so, has removing gluten resolved your symptoms — or have you found it necessary to remove grains and dairy as well? If you haven’t tried a gluten challenge, what’s holding you back?

562 Comments

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  1. I was told by my chiropractor who is also a nutritionist to try gluten free. I was really good about it for about 2 yrs. I got to feeling good and wondering if the gluten free was really necessary. I was missing all those breaded foods I always enjoyed and the products can be expensive. After about 3 months I started having joint pain. I have already had hip resurfacing in both hips due to degenerative arthritis at a young age. My pain was getting so bad I was almost walking again with a cane. I went back gluten free and it has not even been a week yet and I am improving. I know now for sure this must be something I stick to for the rest of my life.

  2. After reading the article and all the comments, there’s important information missing. I am also one who suffered a LONG list of ailments, including diagnosed Grave’s disease (hyperthyroid and goiter), which all went away after going gluten free, and allowed me to first diminish my meds, and then stop them all together. Yes, the first thing isn’t to complain but to TEST yourself. However, most people have no clue where to start with going gluten free. That was the hardest part for me. I began with one meal, breakfast, and started making green smoothies of all kinds. They are filling enough to skip lunch. But lunch and dinner were the hardest, where we normally had pasta and other gluten rich foods. Without knowing a few sample meals, it’s near impossible to feel satisfied and eat balanced. There needs to be a link in this article for that information. I began with salads, like everyone assumes, but now have all kinds of stir frys and hearty meals. A favorite is sauteed potatoes, tomatoes, and onions, on a bed of wilted kale (season all how you like, avoiding gluten dressings – oil, salt and natural seasonings are best), and sometimes I add a side of polenta or grits with real butter. Though I’m now dairy free and vegetarian (I progressed by listening to my body), you can make a great meal of it by adding melted cheese. Use coconut oil to saute. Corn tortillas are great for tacos. And brown rice noodles are a favorite sub in our house for pasta, to which we add fresh, raw tomato marinara. Veggies are in every meal now. Rice and beans, spanish-style, are an excellent meal with a side salad or veggie slaw of any kind, as well as a perfect protein substitute. There are LOTS of ways to make this a lifestyle once you go gluten free. Oh, and omelettes (eggs in general) are great for all 3 meals! Bon Appetit and To Your Health!

    • I LMAO when I read (in the same sentence, no less) that this woman was now ‘dairy free’ but enjoys drizzling melted cheese on her food!

      • I’m glad I made you laugh. Though I do have some occasional butter, I don’t drink milk, or eat yogurt or ice cream. So I’m basically dairy-free. However, if you re-read my original post, I said “Though I’m now dairy-free… YOU can make a great meal by adding cheese.” Happy to clear that up for you. 😉

        • I’m allergic to dairy, but milk is the major problem for me. Before diagnosis, I knew that yoghurt did not bother me (the protein is different) but even the smell of milk (or the Got Milk? commercials) would nauseate me. My mother made me drink milk and also slipped it into other foods, ruining every meal and causing serious other problems for me both immediately and later in the day. I absolutely refused to go past the point where I knew I would upchuck, which was a mistake because that might have convinced her I really did have a problem…. She finally had to use chocolate powder in the milk to get it past my nose. It probably slowed down absorption a bit also. It still felt awful and still caused problems. And I still don’t like chocolate very much….

          I was able to eat dairy ice cream as a kid but not too much vanilla before feeling sick. I think it was the fat that slowed down absorption and the intense flavorings of other types (like my favorite peppermint stick) masked the taste.

          Now I avoid dairy except for some cheese, which doesn’t bother me if I don’t eat it every day or at every meal and limit myself to one or two ounces max. I’ve gone for months at a time without it, though.

  3. Hi, have found this thread very interesting. I’ve been unwell for several years now. Dizziness, fuzzy vision, headaches( increasing in severity) neck and jaw pains, stiff hands and fingers especially at night, brain fog, weight gain,some bloating and pain in tummy day after eating white bread or pasta( I avoid it now). Occasional days where I have loose stools and visit the bathroom several times a day, but other days when I feel constipated. I’ve had numerous tests for deficiencies, MRI scan and taken so many different drugs to try and help this but to no avail. Dr has today started me on anti depressants . On reading your posts and on speaking to a friend who has been diagnosed with coeliac ( she had no stomach issues at all, but muscle pain and stiffness with tiredness) I wonder if I may be gluten intolerant. Any advice would be appreciated. I think my Dr thinks I’m a hypochondriac by now but there must be a reason for this pain . Thanks

    • I honestly think that you have an infection of some sort, perhaps a parasite or yeast overgrowth, or SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) especially since you get bloated after eating things like white bread. If you can, get a CDSA, or comprehensive digestive stool analysis. This will give you an entire array of information for your personal digestive health. You would need to integrate fermented foods and a strong probiotic (I use Prescript Assist, a soil-based probiotic, and VSL#3, which is lactobacillus and bifidobacterium). You would also need to kill the yeast or parasite with specific supplements, depending on what it is.

      This is speculation. I’ve dealt with Candidiasis as well as a Rhodotorula overgrowth in my gut, and I know the pain, fatigue, inflammation, and digestive problems (alternating diarrhea and constipation, included!) that yeast can cause. The gut is the root of all health! Please find a naturopathic or functional medicine doctor, or a gastroenterologist who specializes in integrated medicine.

    • Sandra, have you gotten a new doctor yet? I was going through many symptoms and issues of my own. At the beginning, I did what everyone else does and went to the doctor for help. Well, after no help there after many, many tests, I decided to help myself and do my own research. Well, nine months, about 30 natural-health books from the library, and who knows how much online research, I really think it’s my thyroid. I have always suspected the wheat to be a problem – mild symptoms here and there. I am on day 3 of a GF test diet, and I must say that I feel so much better already. No brain fog, more energy, more regular, more positive in general. I am so excited to see what other good comes of this!
      Sandra, any doctor that gives you antidepressants after you come to him with physical complaints sounds like he just wants to shut you up. While antidepressants can help some people, they can be very dangerous. Please research Dr. Daniel Amen. He is the famous psychologist that sometimes appears on PBS. He has a lot of information on the dangers of antidepressants. Good luck!

  4. Last year my hair started falling out, along with scalp burning and tender spots/sores (but did not appear to be DH rash) on my scalp. I also had neurogenic itch in my arms and peripheral neuropathy. I got an intensive workup and found that I had Sjögren’s syndrome. I eventually did have the dry eye and mouth classic of that condition and got treatment. The itchy arms and painful scalp persisted, however. I got more testing done and found I was positive for deamidated gliadin peptide antibodies IGA, though the other celiac cascade tests were normal. Anyway, I started a strict gluten free diet and within2-3 weeks my scalp and itch problems stopped. I was truly amazed, as I had been to top dermatologists who had treated me with steroids to no avail. I plan to try to go grain and dairy free moving forward.

    • I’m glad you found some answers ☺I hope you don’t mind me sharing my story as i have a similar isdue with my scalp & hair.
      Over the period of last year, i developed what seemed to be odd random symptoms of fatigue, cold wrists & ankles, joint pain, not sleeping well amongst other things that would come & go. Not enough to make any real impact. Though i knew something wasn’t quite right i just brushed it off. Mid way through the year i noticed the part in my hair seemed a bit wider than usual but again, i brushed it off. Few months later, my hair just started to fall out. My scalp became tender & felt like every hair follicle was inflammed.. just touching my hair felt like little needles going in. If i went out in the sun, it hurt my scalp. No sores, just tender spots. Doctors ran a bunch of blood tests which finally showed my body was having an auto immune response to something but to what, they couldn’t tell me. Was basically told to come back if more symptoms presented then they would organise for me to see a specialist. Not happy with all this & getting a bit desperate, i went to a naturopath who did her own tests. Don’t ask me how her machine works but the results it came back with showed pretty much exactly what my bloods did at the doctors plus other things. Anyway, she recommended i go not just wheat/gluten free but totally grain free, do bone broths to help heal my gut & add in a good probiotic. Within 5 days my scalp stopped hurting & not long after, my hair stopped shedding. The other symptoms disappeared as well. This last month or so, i have gone on a binge of cakes, biscuits etc & yep, my scalp is sore & my hair is shedding again. More bloods & tests have again shown nothing. As of today, i’m back on board with eliminating grains & fingers crossed, all symptoms will disappear.

      • I am feel some what the same way like u. I am 30 year old male joints and muscles pain cold wrist and ankle sometimes I burp a lot and have acid reflux right now I am trying to go gluten free. Start since Tuesday I hope to feel well soon

    • GT, I’m curious: did you get a CD diagnosis based on the one positive antibody test, even though the others in the panel were negative? I have been gluten-free for three years following the exact same test results as yours. Without an official CD diagnosis via endoscopy and biopsy, my doctor at the time just told me to follow a strict gluten-free diet for six weeks and then he would run the Celiac panel again to see if the number had changed. After six weeks, the previously-high antibody test was back in the normal range. And yet, still no CD diagnosis, only a prescription to eat gluten-free forever.

      Was your experience similar?

  5. About 6 years ago I decided to go diary free as I suffered from daily diarrhea. Now and again I think I can deal with eating cheese, but when I do I get headaches. Later I did an allergy test at a Chinese holistic healing center. It turned out I am highly intolerant for diary and intolerant for wheat. However I never went wheat free. I did replace it with Spelt which is an older species. Wheat has been ten times modified in the last 1000 years.
    When a friend went gluten free I thought; lets go wheat free.See what it does. I have depression as long as I can remember off and on. I had therapy but the depression returns for no reason. I’m often low on energy and have been on medication for anxiety. I also have pains in my hands and knees since I was about 18. Bloating is the norm.
    Last week I began the wheat free diet and it hasn’t been easy. I never knew you could get withdrawal symptoms. They are similar as when I weaned off the Citolopram (medication for anxiety/depression) I keep a diary of what I eat and how I do. I feel quite good today. But it is still early days.

  6. I’m not sure what I have to be honest. I think I’m gluten and dairy sensitive. Whey Protein shakes kill me so I’ve stopped them. My tummy is always bloated. I sometimes wake up with a flatter stomach but by 12 I have to unbutton my trouser. Other mornings I wake up in pain and my stomach/intestines constantly groan and make really loud noises! Wind, diarrhoea and constipation are always a problem. I went to the docs and CD test came back neg so of course he diagnosed me with IBS and gave me a leaflet. Tired all the time especially after eating and find it hard to get words out or remember things at time. I’m 29 and also very overweight although as active as I can be with wrecked knees and a torn rotator cuff and pain in my neck and top of spine.

    • All of those are Gluten intolerance symptoms. I have them all and have been diagnosed with dermatitis herpetiforme too. You have to began a gluten free diet. I have known of people who has not ben diagnosed for this condition and have developed other illnessess as Hashimoto syndrome. When you stop eatiang gluten. You will soon began to feel better and will not need medication any more.

    • Laura I had the same symptoms for a number of years and asked my dr. for a thyroid ultrasound because I kept packing on weight and feeling gassy bloated joint pain, bloating but my tsh level were normal. After the ultrasound I was diagnosed with hashimotos thyroiditis (aka thyroid gland is swollen) so I went gluten free for the 30 day challenge and felt wonderful. This week I reintroduced gluten and it took 24 hours for the bloating, pain and gas to return. Oh and I too am now severely over weight with two bad ankles but with gluten free even my ankles didn’t hurt. Talk to your Dr about a thyroid ultrasound and gluten free 30 day challenge.

      • I have the same symptoms except I am not gaining weight. I have a pain in my gut. I take a half hydrocodone pill to ease the pain in my gut. I ate gl free for a week and felt so much better. Soon as I ate something with gluten in it the pain came to my gut after 4 hours. I am hypothyroid also. I have got to find a good food market so I can get recipes off the internet.

      • Or how about you don’t talk to your doctor and take charge of your own health by cleaning up your diet (no gluten, no dairy, no sugar, no process foods, no GMOs), detoxifying gently but steadily with well-known easy home methods, supporting your intestinal tract with probiotics, eating a super nutrious diet full of superfoods… If all of us did this consistently, if we adopted this as a lifestyle, we would not need a doctor to tell us if we can or cannot eat gluten or dairy. Please listen to your bodies, trust your bodies and your minds… It is easier than you might thing, and SO empowering. Also, you would GREATLY benefit from reading A Mind of Your Own by Dr. Kelly Brogan. It sold out on Amazon two days after being released about two weeks ago (March 2016). It is an absolutely amazing book, especially for women. Good luck to all and many blessings.

  7. Right, where to start?!
    Basically I’ve not really been able to eat white bread without getting tummy ache for as long as I can remember. I have never noticeably had a problem with brown/wholemeal bread until a month or so ago. It just so happened to be around the time I met a friend of a friend who is diagnosed gluten intolerant which got me thinking……..
    I have since done a LOT of reading and even though I don’t really have much in the way of GI symptoms I have a lot of other niggles. The thing is these other ‘symptoms’ all have apparent other explanations. So here goes…
    1. I’ve had insomnia since I was a teen and have been told my body clock is sensitive and tends towards being out of sync over time and I have sleeping tablets a couple of times a year to knock me back in sync.
    2. I suffer migraines occasionally, I usually associate this with a lack of sleep as sleeping is the only thing that either prevents an oncoming migraine or does anything to help when I have an attack. I have noticed though that I have had an increased number of migraines around the time I noticed brown bread made me ill.
    3. I am on antidepressants and have been for years. I was originally diagnosed with postnatal depression with my now 7 year old that I haven’t really shaken off. After counselling and CBT and different meds and doses the doctor has told me I have ‘depressive illness’ and am just prone to depression. I’m quite happy to take my pills forever if it keeps me straight.
    4. Itchy, dry scalp almost like cradle cap in babies that comes and goes as it pleases. Doctor said it is most likely caused by my antidepressants that make my scalp sensitive.
    5. Irregular (almost non existent) periods. I’ve had this for a long time too, I thought it was weight related and doc thinks I have cysts on my ovaries that could be causing this. I’ve had tests and scans and it’s not PCOS per-se but doc thinks that’s probs what’s up.
    6. Weight! I’m iver weight and have been since having my first child, losing weight is nigh on impossible. Again doc thinks my ovaries and hormones are to blame but didn’t go any further than that not tests or anything.
    7. Brain fog, I can’t find a definition of brain fog that doesn’t scream of me in a morning but I don’t sleep well so I just always put the two together.
    8. I had a test last year for deficiencies (I thought I was dying of breast cancer and it turns out I did too many press ups – shush!) that came back boarder line Vit D deficient. I’m ginger, apparently this is a big deal as I should be able to get vitamin D from sitting in a cupboard. Doc gave me supplements and sent me on my way no questions asked.

    As you can see there are lots of little things that have answers individually but put them together and I have a whole other diagnosis!
    I have cut gluten out best I can for about two weeks now and haven’t really seen much of a change and am thoroughly depressed that I’m not eating gluten containing food (think grown woman sobbing in the free from aisle in tesco!)
    I had some wheetabix this morning as a bit of a test and so far I’m just my usual tired self!
    I don’t know if I should just wait and see or if I should have some pasta or something for my tea?!
    I haven’t been to the docs and discussed any of this because I don’t want to go without anything more conclusive than “all this stuff could add up”
    I really really really don’t want to be unable to eat gluten but then will it fix everything else?! A couple of weeks has been horrifically difficult and depressing, I don’t know how you guys live like this, am I just being impatient?!
    Any advice gladly welcomed – even if it’s just to tell me I’m being paranoid go eat some toast 🙂 xxx

    • You sound like me. Definitely try cutting out all gluten for at least three months. Also do some bipolar II tests online. If you find them positive ask your Doctor for an assessment. I had a crisis following getting hashimoto’s which i got under control with paleo plus autoimmune protocol. Gave up dairy, gluten, sugar. Felt great but fell by the wayside once the antibodies went down and symptoms stopped. But it triggered major BPII episode, depressed plus massively irritable and reckless. I finally got diagnosis and treatment. The brain fog I’d had for 10 years [with depression plus many symptoms of hypo which I was able to hide from others, stupid decisions, irritability which was unknown, all following introduction of antidepressants] lifted after 2 weeks of lamictal. I lost weight, had more energy, when I went up to 200mg I felt like me again, pre major depression 10 years ago. I was able to reduce antidepressants to nil after two years, think I need some now but have to make sure it’s one which is recommended for BP2, Good luck.

    • Julie, it’s astounding, you have almost ALL the effects of gluten intolerance…it’s been correlated with all that you have, and when there are so many correlations it’s getting near causation. Depression, brain fog, etc…all..all.. and the excuses that teens have to be like that, you have to take drugs…but the truth is that human beings as all the other living beings ob earth don’t have to be sick, sickness is an exception in nature, not the rule. But the issue is not getting gluten free, is getting paleo…avoid not only gluten, but grains, dairy and any pricessed food and focus on the most nutritional dense ones. Good luck!

    • July, I just wanted to tell you that going gluten freee is not that bad. You can still enjoy eating other options of bread and cakes. Many people in several countries do not eat white flour any more. White flour is not good for our health even if you are not gluten intolerant. Furthermore, when you stop eating what is killing you silently, you will begin to feel so good that you will never would like to go back to depression, anxiety, and all those symptoms that do not let you enjoy your life. People who is gluten intolerant have to stop the consumption of this protein in order to avoid to develop other bad diseases as diabetes, Hashimoto syndrom, etc. Good luck.

    • I wish I cut out dairy first. I think if you do, you can eat gluten in smaller amounts. But white flour is a poison nobody should eat. That is never going to change…

  8. I think there’s an error here…you have .7 as the percentage of people that have celiac. I don’t know what the percentage is but last I heard it was .05. Maybe you meant .07?

  9. I also fogot to mention that my issues are always worse in warm wheather. It does’nt bother me as much in the winter.I have no idea why. Does anyone else?

    • Mike, don’t be in denial like I was. JUST CUT OUT ALL GLUTEN FOR A WEEK OR TWO. That will probably give you the answer. It is both diagnosis and treatment, and doesn’t cost you a cent.

      • Great advice. Don’t procrastinate. Just do it. You have nothing to loose and a great quality of life and some additional years to gain.

    • Mike, why are you still whining about it? Get off the gluten for two weeks and you will have both diagnosis and treatment. Perhaps whining is another symptom of gluten intolerance???

  10. I started having problems in high school and i am now 59. They have steadily gotten worse. I don’t have so much problem with my GI tract, I just feel drugged and weak shortly after eating and want to lay down. I also suffer from brain fog, low energy, can’t concentrate and can hardly drag myself out of bed in the morning. Is this gluten? Does anyone else have this drugged sensation? Also my stool is very light in color.

    • Sounds just like what I have been through. Just keep all gluten out of your diet for a week. If you feel better, you have the diagnosis. Doctors are loathe to even recognize most cases of gluten intolerance, and the tests for it are still not very reliable. But you have the power to diagnose and treat yourself. But watch the fine print on labels because there’s gluten in almost every prepared food. Good luck, Bud

      • Bud, by the way, being a veterinarian I hope you could share my disappointment about pet business, they are forced to eat a grain based diet like us, but since such diet is harmful for us, I’m shivering at the idea of a true carnivore eating like that, it wreaks such havoc upon their health.

        • There are grain free pet foods. My cats eat duck and rice that I buy at petco. Initially it is expensive, but you will find that you need to feed them less and there is less waste to clean up.

          • Actually rice is not for carnivores as well…they have to eat flesh and that’s all they need…they need to avoid not only grains, but any other form of carb

            • My cat’s old vet had a recipe for homemade cat food that was only 1/3 meat. I’ve had cats that loved veggies and fruits and whole grains (they weren’t interested in white flour products) and basically would steal anything on my vegan plate. One was a tomato fiend and I had to buy organically grown ones for her to prevent her from trying to kill me. The vet said all this was normal and that cats were more into such things than many people realize.

              The grain and carbohydrate content of many modern cat foods is just junky like the meat content. That’s why so many problems are surfacing from the standard supermarket cat foods. Our vet always pushed higher quality foods for cats and dogs because she said she saw too many illnesses caused by poor quality foods. She promised we would save on vet bills to make up for extra food costs.

    • For Mike: It sounds like ‘gluten sensitivity’ (that’s what I have), the brain fog in particular, BUT gluten sensitivity is often associated with low vitamins and minerals (your ability to absorb these seems to be lessened). The yellow stool sounds like very low iron (ferritin), which will also cause extreme tiredness. Try going non-gluten for two weeks and get your iron (and vitamins, particularly B12) checked as well.

    • all disease begins in the digestive tract…a diet high in grains,processed food etc can gum up the digestive tract, cause leaky gut with leads to autoimmune disease and thyroid issues and many other symptoms…the only way to feel better is to heal the gut…remove parasites from the body , some people need enzymes and hydrochloric acid to help digest food …
      Whole food , no grains dairy , or sugar ..there is a lot of interesting info on this paleomom is good…I’m certainly not there yet but I feel better off grains …every time I eat bread ( organic sourdough) I get a scaly rash around the creases of my nose and eyebrows..
      Worm yourself and clean your colon..get good enzymes and bacteria back in and keep
      Eating like this for the rest of your life ..

  11. I’m looking for some feedback. I’m not sure if I have a gluten intolerance or not. I’ve only been to a few doctors lately but for about one full year now I have this chronic feeling of being achey or sick. It happens daily and multiple times during the day. When I experience this, I want to lay down but it doesn’t help. Nothing helps. It just comes and goes in waves. I also experience bloating EVERY time after I eat no matter how big or small the meal may be. I’m not sure if I need to go gluten free but this chronic feeling of being sick is driving me insane. Any suggestions?

    • Great article on gluten intolerance, very well worded!

      I want to give a shout out to anyone out there who even suspects that they might have gluten intolerance. Just try a gluten-free diet for a week or two. If that’s your problem, you will feel better right away, and it will improve for months.

      I am a veterinarian, very well versed in medicine, and my story is so dramatic that I would not believe it if it hadn’t happened to me. As soon as I quit gluten I got rid of my rhinitis, sinusitis, inability to sleep without my mouth open and drooling, muscle aches, fatigue, brain fog, and loss of balance. I was so depressed while eating gluten that I dragged myself through the day. Now I feel born again.

      Seriously, gluten intolerance is no joke. It might not kill you, but it will make your quality of life so poor that you will wish to die. Seriously.

      Thanks.

      • Bud, I agree, the quality of life is so much better. I still eat some products made with corn but I am considering cutting them out too. I am still having mal-absorption issues. Right now I am fighting low sodium along with a host of other auto immune issue.

      • Bud, when you stopped eating gluten, did you also cut something else (eg diary etc) ?
        Im curious, because Im just going to start this diet also, to test if Im gluten intolerant.

        Thanks for your answer and have a nice day,

        Eda

  12. I live in rural China (ecologist working in Science institute), I’ve been a vegetarian for most of the last 27 or so years, and have known I’m allergic to Chilli for a long time. More recently I’ve come to suspect I react to MSG, and that I may have IBS-as I can’t digest oily foods. However normally those oily foods have also had gluten in, and as gluten is not a big part of the diet here, and I seem to also have the same issues when I go west/eat in a western restaurant.
    Last night a friend baked bread, and I very quickly started feeling bloated, generally uncomfortable and slight nauseous; could it be IBS or gluten intolerance and is there an easy way of telling?
    Thinking back I used to get many more migraines/headaches/visual migraines and mouth ulcers, and even abscesses in the west-where access to bread (etc) was easy
    I live in a remote place, and already survive mainly on fruit and nuts, plus a small ration of imported cheese and crackers (try being a veggy in rural China when you can’t eat oil, chilli or MSG…..) so one thing I really don’t need is a gluten allergy, and yet I can’t put the symptoms (and the fact they flair up when I’m anywhere I can get hold of bread) down to anything else…..

  13. After reading some of these comments & from personal experience a lot of the discomfort foods are GMO and extremely processed. In my experience if I bake with wheat I’m fine. If I buy bread products I’m in distress. A huge part is that there are a lot of ingredients that should not be in bread that are on the market that reak havoc on our digestive system. I was googling GMO and the effects on animals & I found a study done in Europe that stated all of those symptoms in the animals on GMO feed (reproduction issues, bloody stool ect). So it may be worth it for you all to eat real un processed non GMO food and see if that helps. Dairy intolerance from pasteurized milk can also cause similar symptoms & vertually all processed foods have some form of dairy in them. I wish you all luck and health.

    • Of course GMO and additives can only enworse any problem. However in ancient societies like Egypt and others people did already suffer from the disease of civilization. As soon as agriculture has been introduced, general health dropped down.
      Surely modern industrial food are thousands times more harmful.

  14. I recovered from Hashimoto’s thyroiditis by going paleo, gluten free, dairy free and sugar free. I also took milk thistle [detox liver] siberian ginseng alternating with rhodiola rosea [adaptogens] – plus kefir, kombucha and 24 hour fermented yoghurt to rid the milk of lactose. Within 2 years the antibodies [Hashimoto’s and Graves] dropped from 800 to 200 and blood tests back to ‘normal’, symptoms alleviated.

    • But Chris, excuse me, I was aware that transglutaminase enzymes try to break the proline glutammine binding only into the bloodstream when it has already forced the tight junctions. According to Fasano it seems that gliadin activate zonulin release and open the junctions, penetrate inside and just after transglutaminase come to unbind it, but with scarse results, indeed the enzyme bind together with glutammine forms the antigene that provoke the autoimmune response, while the other pary with proline goes to activate the oppioid receptors into the brain. Caseins have the same strong binding and seem to provoke the same reaction. What do you think about it?

        • It’s not me that told to suffer from Hashimoto, however for autoimmune disease I would recommend the autoimmune protocol by Chris for example. Together with grains, dairy and legumes you should avoid nightshades, eggs and all the stuff that could be an issue when an autoimmune disease has been already triggered.

      • Allesio. Seriously? I think you would be far more successful in improving your health if you didn’t waste your time trying to over analyze and articulate each biological process concerning gluten or other allergic reactions. Read the other posts to better educate yourself about the concerns and treatments that are working for other people.

        • Sorry but I don’t have to improve my health, I’m healthy and strong, I can squat more than 200 kg and deadlifts as well and I’ve never felt better than now eating grassfed meat, fish, poultry, vegetables and some fruit and avoiding grains dairy and legumes.

          • And so what? I just suggested to read some good articles from Chris and others, avoiding the aformentioned stuff worked for many people struggling with autoimmune disease, I don’t want to educate nor to be educated, I just act according to evidence, and that’s all, people are ready to bite as soon as you touch their pretty little world, if one wants to discuss with me calmly pointing out their view I’m so happy but I’m really disappointed to get attacked with pointless and unworthy statements.

          • The market for grass fed fish is tough, man. Good luck!

            Just Kidding. I have no idea what I am doing.

    • I am curious to know how long you had Hashimotos. I just had a drs. appointment after having given up gluten for 6 months and was told that since I’ve had this for many, many years that there would be no reversing it. If I had given up gluten all those years ago, then there would have been a chance of reversing it. I also don’t eat dairy or soy. Can I still hold out hope that things might change in a couple years?

  15. I have been gluten free for about three years now. I was never tested for CD. My issue with doing a gluten challenge is that when I am accidently glutened, I feel horrible for 4 days afterwards. Two days ago, I was at a restaurant and the waitress brought my meal with my wife’s dinner roll leaning on my dinner. I sent it back, as when I let something like that slide before, I have gotten sick. I could see the cook in the kitchen was obviously ticked that I had done that, and he was glaring at me like I was the worst person ever created. Guess what. One hour after I left the restaurant I was in distress. Yesterday were the worst symptoms I had ever had. Did he do it on purpose? We will never know. Judging by his reaction to my request, I’ll bet the contents of the crumb tray from the toaster ended up in my meal. My point is, my body could never tolerate a 30 day challenge in order to try to get a definitive biopsy.

    • When going into a restaurant, use the words “severe allergy to wheat”, rather than “gluten intolerance “. The word allergy keys on the fear of an anaphylactic attack, which would be quite nasty for the restaurant owner and chef to deal with, if it happened. While intolerance is just seen as an annoyance to them. If they see that it’s a “life or death” issue, then you don’t get the nasty look, but rather a very safe meal.

  16. I was diagnosed 3 years ago, after 6 months of battling with increasing diarrhoea. Bloodtests, both endomisium and gliadin antibodies showed positive and I went off gluten, a week or so later the symptoms decreased and disappeared. My endoscopy biopsy showed negative, however, but was done by a general surgeon other than a gastroenterelogist (couldnt afford a good hospital with a student financial sitch, plus Turkey isnt exactly a healthcare heaven) Now I will have to join the army in 7 weeks time, and need to prove I have coeliac so went on a gluten challenge. I am nervous that I might not have the illness at all, even though the antibodies were positive. I am on a gluten challenge for a week now, not a prominent symptom has occured yet. I wonder when do the sypmtoms come back, how long does it usually take to show positive on tests and what would the rate of me being coeliac: endomisium and gliadins positive but negative biopsy after 6 months of diarrhea and stops when gluten free. After all army on a gluten diet would suck :/

  17. I am currently pursuing Celiacs disease testing because I have been sick for about 2 months with a wide array of neurological, GI and systemic symptoms. I am a very healthy 21 year old college student who woke up one morning in January with muscle twitches throughout my body (and right eye), headaches and awful brain fog. I have seen multiple doctors who are pretty baffled by my symptoms and haven’t been able to give me a clear answer. I was initially diagnosed with Lymes disease and was treated with antibiotics for three weeks but never improved. I also received an MRI which was completely normal. After that I was tested for Lupus, thyroid issues, RA and other tic-born illnesses, all were negative and my blood chemistry and CBC was fine. I will be tested for Celiac’s Disease tomorrow and I just wanted to know if anyone has experienced substantial and unyielding neurological symptoms with Celiac’s. My main concern is the brain fog, which has been with me constantly for two months, even when I went off gluten for two weeks. I have experienced GI issues throughout my illness, alternating diarrhea and constipation with undigested food in my stools, however, that hasn’t been my primary symptom. I have also lost weight through this whole thing. For those of you who have gone off gluten, how long did it take for your symptoms to begin to subside? Does this sound like Celiacs or a gluten sensitivity?

    • Mackenzie, I’m sorry you’re not feeling well. I don’t have any answers for you. Just wanted to write to let you know I am having the same experience. Weight loss. Brain fog. Headaches. Muscle ticks. I also just had some testing done that appears normal. I have eliminated gluten and caisin from my diet and plan to contine without them. It’s only been a couple weeks and I’m not noticing much of a difference yet but as I understand it, it can take months off of gluten for symptoms to reasolve. Best of luck!

    • I just wanted to say that for me that Gluten causes a lot of neurological symptoms for me alongside with digestive issues mainly constipation but occasionally diarrhea. My neurological symptoms are dizziness, confusion, headache but the worst symptom is it affects my speech! I find it difficult to get the right words out although I can near the words clearly in my mind. I also find writing difficult too if I’ve had gluten. But the speech problems are even worse if I consume milk, or ice cream. I also become immediately irrational irritable and an hour or so later very down and tearful. I have had 2 negative Celiac blood tests but that’s because I can’t eat enough gluten for the blood test where you have to eat it for at least 2 weeks, as I just feel too ill. The last time I tried to do the blood test and ate gluten for 1 week and ended up in hospital they tested me for celiac and various things but I was unable to speak except gibberish for several days although I could think clearly but the words wouldn’t come out right. At first they thought I had encephalitis, then a stroke, then they said I had had a blood clot in my spleen…I don’t think they knew really but I know that it is celiac or gluten intolerance..I’ve had these problems on a lesser scale when being glutened accidentally before I went into hospital. My family all suffer from auto immune diseases of one kind or another and one of my twin daughter’s was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes another auto immune disease very much related to Celiac. The reason I wanted to try for a positive Celiac test was for my children’s sake and their future health. But now I just don’t touch the poisonous gluten or Dairy or any grains. I eat fish vegetables fruit, nuts, seeds and use plenty of virgin coconut oil and don’t have any of the above symptoms. I feel 25 instead of 50!! 🙂

    • Makenzie,

      My symptoms are similar. They were gone for awhile and have only recently come back as I have been off my diet for the past month and a half. My eye twitch is the most annoying. What did your doctors say? I am getting back on a mostly meat and veggies diet today and will continue it perpetually. I’m almost positive my symptoms will go away from that. I am concerned about lyme disease. Both my parents have it and as a hunter I’ve had ticks on me every summer.

  18. My daughter was diagnosed with CD when she was 9 years old. She had stopped eating and she had lost weight. The doctor did a biopsy and said it was CD. The only physical symptom she has was a stomach ache. She did well on the GF diet, but last summer she started eating gluten when she wasn’t around me. I noticed this year she’s eating more and more. She says she has no stomach ache and that she feels fine. I’ve decided to add gluten back to her diet. She’s been eating gluten for a couple of weeks now, at every meal, and she’s fine. No reaction. Could the doctor have been wrong?

    • No, the doctor could not have been wrong if he did a biopsy. When a Celiac to eats gluten (whether feeling pain or not) they are doing serious harm to their digestive system. Even ONE gluten exposure can do damage that can take months to heal.

      The way CD is diagnosed is they SEE damage to the intestinal lining, she’ been eating gluten for some time before the diagnosis and and the damage was literally visible that’s why she had pain, there was SO MUCH damage. You should not let her get to that point again, the consequences on her health are far-reaching. It will take a large toll on her ability to absorb nutrients not to mention wreaking havoc on her immune system.

      Celiacs who do not maintain a gluten-free diet are at risk for a huge amount of diseases because of the continual damaged state their digestive system is in, not the least of which being cancer:

      http://www.celiaccentral.org/Celiac-Disease/Related-Conditions/Intestinal-Cancer/46/

      Please educate yourself for your child’s sake. A diagnosis of CD from a biopsy is a gold-standard. There is no mistake.

      • That’s not true. There are many false-negatives with biopsies because damage does not always occur in the entire small intestine. It often happens in isolated patches. So what happens if the biopsy is taken from the part of the intestine that is not damage? You get a false negative. The ONLY way to know FOR SURE if gluten is the culprit is to go on a strict gluten-free diet for a minimum of 30 days to see if the symptoms drastically improve or disappear.

  19. I did an elimination diet about 1.5 years ago. It was pretty obvious that gluten was the cause of many aliments I had been suffering from for years. Joint pain, mood, brain fog, always being tired, stomach and digestive issues. I went Paleo for a few months and felt much better. I’ve gone back to eating non-paleo items, but still eliminating gluten items. However, I have experimented with things like waffles, pancakes, pies and sometimes there is no reaction. Last week, I tried a Belgian Blonde Tripel beer, and I felt like I had been hit by a truck the next morning. There was no immediate reaction which was strange. I was non functional for half the day until the gluten was removed from my system, I’m guessing. What I can’t figure out is, why is that I can eat a piece of pie but not drink a beer? Could it be the type of grain, like white flour in a pie versus wheat in a beer? I’ve had a blood test for CD, which was negative.

    • When I finally discovered I was gluten intolerant last summer, I went completely grain-free except rice. I also eliminated corn, soy, added sugars and most dairy (stayed with butter and aged cheeses). Within 2-3 weeks, all of my symptoms, including rashes, brain fog, weekly cankor sores, constipation, debilitating bouts of fatigue and weakness, joint pain – ALL miraculously disappeared. Even climbed a mountain. Until one night I had a couple of beers and it was like as you said, getting hit by a truck. My brain turned to mush and all the symptoms returned, even the cankor sore. I will never have another beer as long as I live. Also avoiding gin, vodka etc. Wine seems fine however. So, cheers! And best of luck to you.

  20. I’ve made a few comments here over the past. I decided to try something I’d read about, i.e. taking a lot of probiotics and no I’m not talking about merely consuming yogurt.
    I’ve not been able to eat a lot of foods for many years due to ‘sensitivities’ including pretty much all grains and all legumes. From what I’ve read, these all contain phytates and a few other ‘anti-nutrients’ as they’re called some of which can cause leaky gut. My deduction is that we also, by consuming these phytate foods induce an increase in undesirable organisms like candida that can thrive on phytates, estrogenic substances, stress hormones, sugar,… and wammo we have more negative health issues.
    So if we properly treat the phytate foods as in old world methods so they can be consumed without issue, and we treat ourselves with probiotics starting with once daily and working to thrice or whatever works for our bodies – will this help?
    Well, after a few weeks of probiotics 1-3x daily depending on how I felt that day, eating clean, and then trying at least one of my problematic foods, I had no issues. Was I able to do this 3 days in a row? Not yet unless it was a flu bug I got that was going around at the time.
    What I’m seeing is very promising and I was wondering how many others would like to try it out.
    In order to consume those phytate foods which is basically all seeds – grains and legumes, you need to do various processing, i.e. soak for a few days with clean water daily (not fluoridated), sprout, probiotic addition, then heat treat. There are a number of sites online that provide some good old world treatment techniques. Its just in N.Am. where we have this need to cut corners and do everything in 2 seconds to get the profit, we’ve cut those essential techniques for our health out thinking they weren’t important. Guess what… they are.
    In my case I’ve also become allergic to a number of items assumingly because of the leaky gut issue. I’m praying that this will alleviate that issue as well. So far, I’m seeing positive results as with the half bag of potato chips (which I became allergic to potatoes) but I’m treading carefully for the most part.

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