Gluten Intolerance is an impending epidemic in India. According to Dr. Wadhwa of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi, every 3 to 5 of 100 children in India are suffering from gluten intolerance. But this disorder is not confined to children only. A lot of adults who had been eating gluten all their lives without any ill effects are being diagnosed for gluten intolerance for various health disorders. According to a report published by TOI, about 16% of the Diabetics (298 children and 318 adults) who were screened for gluten sensitivity at NIMS, Hyderabad were tested positive for celiac sprue/ celiac disease / gluten intolerance.
One of the reasons why more and more people are being diagnosed for gluten intolerance nowadays is that the tests for gluten allergy have been introduced in our country just a few years back. Due to the lack of specific tests in the past the problem had remained undiagnosed and treated for something else.
Even today 99% of people with gluten allergy are not aware of their condition and blame their ill health or symptoms on something else.
More than 300 symptoms of gluten intolerance have been documented. However, these symptoms and their manifestation vary from one individual to another.
Listed below are the symptoms and conditions associated with gluten intolerance/ sensitivity. If you have any of the subsequent symptoms or suffer from any the conditions mentioned below it could be a sign that you are suffering from gluten intolerance.
- Digestive issues like gas, bloating, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, abdominal pain, heartburn, gum bleeding, lactose intolerance, steatorrhea, gastric ulcer, irritable bowel syndrome, defective tooth enamel, unexplained bleeding, cow’s dairy intolerance, Crohn’s disease, gastrointestinal occult bleeding (blood in stools not visible to naked eyes).
- Disorders of skin, hair and nails like alopecia areata (patchy hair loss), alopecia (balding), thinning of hair, eczema, dermatitis herpetiform, nails with white spots, nails with rounded and curved down ends- dark and dry, psoriasis, follicular hyperkeratosis, scleroderma, seborrhea, vitiligo, itchy skin rash.
- Disorders of glands like autoimmune hepatitis, autoimmune thyroiditis, Addison’s disease, grave’s disease, Type 1 Diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, idiopathic hypoparathyroidism, pancreatic insufficiency.
- Disorders of muscular system like muscle weakness, muscle wasting, muscular pain and tenderness, muscle spasm and cramps, severe potassium deficiency, tetany, polymyositis, osteomalacic myopathy.
- Disorders of Nervous System like anxiety, depression, epilepsy, tremors, dementia, chronic fatigue syndrome, ataxia, multiple sclerosis, irritability, insomnia, inability to concentrate, frequent headache, migraine.
- Reproductive issues in females like amenorrhea (loss of menstrual period), infertility, dyspareunia (painful intercourse), early menopause, pre- menstrual syndrome, late menarche (late start of menstrual periods), vaginitis, dysmenorrhea (painful periods).
- Reproductive issues in males like infertility, impotence, sperm abnormalities, hypogonadism.
- Chromosomal Disorders like Down Syndrome and Turner Syndrome.
- Child Development issues like autism, developmental delay, hyperactivity, growth retardation, delayed puberty in boys and girls, rickets, iron deficiency anemia that is unresponsive to iron therapy, glycogenic acanthosis, hypotonia, impaired penicillin V absorption.
- Disorders of kidney and urinary tract like frequent urinary tract infection, hypercalciuria, IgA nephropathy.
- Disorders of sensory system like blurred vision, loss of taste, loss of smell, cataract.
- Disorders of pulmonary system like non- response to tuberculosis treatment, bronchial pneumonia, bronchiectasis.
- Disorders of immune system like IgA deficiency, chronic urticaria (hives), asthma, hay fever, sarcoidosis, Sjogren’s syndrome.
- Cognitive issues like hallucinations, delusion, disorientation, poor memory, scattered thinking, reduced learning, slow thinking, confabulation.
- Blood test abnormalities like folic acid deficiency anemia, iron deficiency anemia, vitamin B12 deficiency anemia, elevated liver enzymes, elevated homocysteine levels; low levels of zinc, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, copper, and potassium; prolonged prothrombin time, low levels of plasma proteins in the blood, elevated bone alkaline phosphatase enzyme, haemochromatosis, neutropenia.
- Skeletal symptoms like osteoporosis, psoriatic arthritis, recurrent monoarthritis, enteropathic arthritis, bone pain.
Having any of the above symptoms does not necessarily mean that you are gluten intolerant. As mentioned above, that the manifestation of symptoms of gluten intolerance vary from one individual to another. So if your body is not responding to any of the treatment as prescribed by your doctor for any of the above symptoms or if you are experiencing multiple symptoms from the above list it could be a sign that you are gluten intolerant or gluten sensitive.
Try a gluten elimination diet (100% elimination) for at least 3 weeks and then reintroduce it. If you feel significantly better on a gluten free diet or feel worse when it is reintroduced it is likely that gluten is the cause of your problem.
Also note, that many of the symptoms mentioned above have recently been diagnosed. Hence, many doctors still do not link gluten with the above conditions.