How to Tell If You Are Gluten Intolerant

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More and more patients are coming to me wanting to know if they have a gluten intolerance or sensitivity. Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) is a condition in which you experience symptoms when eating gluten, but do not have an autoimmune response like that of celiac disease or an allergy to wheat (1). Although the symptoms people experience are very real and sometimes debilitating, determining if going gluten free is necessary isn’t always black and white for the following reasons:

  1. Standardized Testing Does Not Exist. Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity is a recently classified condition for which standardized testing has not been established. The current testing that does exist is not all encompassing, meaning that results may show no sensitivity when you are in fact experiencing symptoms due to gluten (false negative).
  2. Symptoms Can Vary from Person to Person. Not everyone experiences gluten sensitivity the same way. Sensitivities can manifest anywhere in the body and aren’t limited to your digestive system. In fact, many people have no digestive symptoms at all.
  3. Symptoms Can Take Several Days to Show Up. Sure some people may eat gluten and within hours experience symptoms, but for others, symptoms may not arise for several days. This can make it very difficult to determine if gluten alone is causing symptoms.

Do You Experience Any of These Symptoms?

If you have 3 or more of the following symptoms, you may have a gluten sensitivity.

  1. Fatigue
  2. Headache or Migraines
  3. Brain Fog
  4. Stomach pain, Reflux, IBS, Gas and Bloating
  5. Joint Pain or Muscle Aches
  6. Eczema, Dandruff or Hives
  7. Dizziness, Numbness or Tingling
  8. Anxiety, Depression
  9. PMS, Infertility, Irregular Menses
  10. Nutrient Deficiencies
  11. Sleep Disturbance
  12. Frequent Colds and/or Flus
  13. Thyroid Condition
  14. Autoimmunity: Hashimoto’s, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis and others
  15. Difficulty Gaining or Losing Weight

How to Determine If You Have A Gluten Sensitivity:

1. Elimination Diet with Reintroduction: One of the best ways to determine if you have a gluten sensitivity is to remove it from your diet for at least 3 weeks followed by reintroduction. For some people, 3 weeks is not long enough to feel the effects so the results may not be obvious. I recommend that patients take note of how they feel off of gluten and what they experience with reintroduction.

Because gluten can cause leaky gut, there may be other food sensitivities that would need to be removed from the diet in order to             experience a change in symptoms. For many of my patients, elimination diets are recommended in conjunction with gut repair                 therapies to help heal leaky gut and to give their body an opportunity to recover from the inflammation and damage caused by                   food sensitivities.

When doing an elimination diet you must avoid gluten 100%. If you continue to eat even a small amount of gluten during the                     elimination period you will continue to activate your immune system and as a result, will not be able to determine if gluten is a                 problem for you.

Gluten hides in many places. Here are some of the common hidden sources of gluten:
– Soy sauce
– Salad dressing
– Teas
– Soup mixes
– Supplements
– Envelopes, stamps
– Play dough
– Lipstick, makeup and personal care products

2. IgG and IgA Food Sensitivity Blood Test: A simple finger stick can help you measure your antibodies to not only gluten and gluten containing foods, but also other common food sensitivities. This test will allow you to have a more targeted approach to an elimination diet and may detect foods that you wouldn’t suspect to be causing your symptoms.

Determine if You Have a Gluten Sensitivity Today!

Determining if you have a gluten sensitivity could help you find relief from your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Imagine being free of headaches, having more energy or even being able to lose unwanted weight. If you are interested in working with a natural medicine expert who is experienced in helping people identify and heal from their food sensitivities I invite you to schedule an appointment today and reclaim your health and vitality! 

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About The Author

Dr. Jolene Brighten

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Dr. Jolene Brighten is a licensed Functional Medicine Naturopathic Doctor, best selling author, speaker, and mother. Dr. Brighten specializes in women’s health, from fertility to postpartum care, adrenal and thyroid support, autoimmune conditions, and digestive disorders. In her patient centered practice, Dr. Brighten thrives on navigating the space between conventional and alternative medicine, all while working with patients to help them achieve optimum balance, health, and happiness.