Gluten is a protein, or to be more specific, a composite of two proteins, known as glutenin and gliadin. This composite protein can be mainly found in wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten can adversely affect the intestinal lining of some individuals, who cannot tolerate this composite protein. People can develop gluten intolerance at any age. Individuals who develop gluten intolerance experience several annoying and painful symptoms after consuming gluten-containing foods.
This condition can cause mild inflammation of the mucosa of the small intestine to severe gastrointestinal problems. In fact, the severe cases of gluten intolerance can lead to celiac disease. In celiac disease, the immune system attacks and damages the lining of the small intestine, especially the small, finger-like projections, known as villi. This can impair the ability of the intestine to absorb nutrients effectively.
Signs and Symptoms
This condition can be asymptomatic at times. If symptoms are present, then these can vary from one person to another. Many individuals can experience the symptoms immediately after consuming gluten-containing food products, while others can develop the symptoms slowly after a few hours.
The signs and symptoms of this condition can resemble the symptoms of wheat allergy, though these are two different conditions. An allergy to wheat can result from an abnormal immune response to one or more proteins found in wheat. The following are some of the common signs and symptoms of gluten intolerance:
Treatment and Management
- Gluten intolerance can sometimes cause skin rash, dermatitis, and eczema.
- Gastrointestinal ailments and bowel discomfort can be some other important symptoms of this condition. People with gluten intolerance can experience abdominal bloating, flatulence, constipation or diarrhea, abdominal cramps, abdominal pain, and nausea, after eating any gluten-containing food.
- Over a period of time, this condition can adversely affect the ability of the intestine to absorb nutrients, which can cause malabsorption. Malabsorption can cause the deficiency of some important nutrients, which can lead to unexplained weight loss and fatigue.
- Apart from these, some other common symptoms that can be produced by this condition are, headaches, depression, irritability, mouth ulcers, muscle cramps, and joint pain.
- Over a period of time, this condition can cause certain other health problems. If left untreated, gluten intolerance can cause osteoporosis, celiac disease, Crohn's disease, and anemia.
Presently, there is no cure for gluten allergy, though the symptoms of this condition can be managed with some medications. The best treatment for this condition is the avoidance of the allergen, i.e., the gluten-containing food products. This however is not as simple as it sounds. For a complete exclusion of gluten from your diet, you have to read the label of every food product before purchasing. Gluten can be found in wheat, rye, barley, and foods made from them, which means that a large number of baked and processed foods contain gluten. Even many medications contain this protein. So, before purchasing any product, you have to make sure that it is gluten-free.
While following a gluten-free diet, it should be kept in mind that the foods that contain gluten are also the foods that are high in fiber. Fiber-rich foods are important for the health of the gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, be sure to include more fruits and vegetables in your diet to get enough fiber. This can help avoid the annoying symptoms produced by gluten intolerance, without compromising the dietary intake of fiber. You can also have a talk with your physician or a dietitian, to know more about how to manage gluten intolerance effectively with a proper diet.
: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.