Think you might have an intolerance to gluten?
Check out the information below to get answers.
Common symptoms of a gluten intolerance:
- Brain Fog
- Stomach Cramping
- Muscle Aches
- Vision changes
- Mood swings
- Skin rash (also known as Dermatitis Herpetiformis)
- Joint Pain
- Cold Sweats
** This list is not all inclusive but covers some of the symptoms you could experience **
You’re experiencing a symptom or two after eating foods with gluten. What do you do next?
Talk to your doctor and explain exactly what’s going on. It might help to keep a food journal. Log what you eat each day and the symptoms you experience.
At the appointment, explain what you’ve been experiencing.
- When did this start?
- How often do you notice symptoms?
- How long do they last?
- What makes the symptoms better?
- What makes them worse?
- Are you taking any medications or supplements?
Keep these questions in mind so you can provide your doctor with a comprehensive history.
If recommended by your doctor, the next order of business is testing to rule out Celiac disease. Doc may order one or more of the following blood tests to look at antibodies:
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease. Since, unfortunately, it’s common to be diagnosed with more than one autoimmune disease, Doc might order these blood tests too:
- Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) – this blood test looks at how the thyroid is functioning. A high or low result could indicate that the thyroid is either producing too much or not enough of the hormone
- Renal function panel – this blood test looks at how the kidneys are functioning. It also looks at blood glucose levels. An elevated blood glucose level could indicate diabetes
Celiac disease can cause nutritional deficiencies which is why these tests could be ordered:
- Bone density scan – a non-invasive body scan to check bone health
- Iron – a blood test to check iron levels in the body to rule out iron deficient anemia
I had my blood drawn, what’s next?
If the blood work for Celiac disease comes back positive, the doctor may refer you to a gastroenterologist (GI doctor) where they typically order an endoscopy to biopsy the stomach. The biopsy will show whether or not there has been damage to the stomach’s lining.
What’s an endoscopy?
Well, an endoscopy is an outpatient procedure where a doctor inserts a tiny, flexible tube with a camera into your mouth and down your throat to your stomach (under sedation, of course). This is how they can determine whether your stomach has suffered any damage caused by eating gluten.
If the biopsy comes back positive, a diagnosis of Celiac disease is typically given.
A negative biopsy result could determine a Non-Celiac gluten intolerance or NCGI. Check out my post on why people go gluten free for an explanation into the difference.
I’ve been diagnosed with Celiac disease or NCGI. Where the heck do I start?
First, take a deep breath. Everything will be okay. Do not forget that.
I have a post with tips on how to make your home gluten free – check it out here.
Talk to family and friends about how you’re feeling. Find the support you need to help get you through these first few weeks.
Learning how to read labels and knowing where to find hidden sources of gluten is important when starting out.
Below, you’ll find some great resources for Celiac disease and NCGI:
It’s best practice to continue follow-up appointments with your GI doctor. Typically, the first appointment will be six months after diagnosis and then yearly. Before each appointment, your doctor will order blood work to monitor those antibodies, making sure they’re coming down into a normal range.
Meeting with a dietitian after diagnosis and then yearly is also recommended. A dietitian can help create meal plans and give you ideas on products to avoid or to incorporate into your diet.
I don’t feel that bad after eating gluten. Maybe I can eat it on occasion?
This thought might run through your head from time to time. The idea that you can have “cheat days” might sound appealing.
Truth is, any time you eat foods with gluten, it causes damage. If Celiac disease is left untreated, or you don’t follow a strict gluten free diet after being diagnosed, long term health effects can result. This includes…
- Increased risk for certain stomach cancers
- Increased risk for other autoimmune diseases
- Nerve damage
Learning how to read labels will empower you to take charge of your life and well-being. While phone apps are helpful, they’re not always completely accurate. The best way to know what to avoid is to learn exactly which ingredients have gluten hiding in them.
That’s right, I said hiding.
Be careful because wheat isn’t the only ingredient that contains gluten. (Frustrating, right?!) Food manufacturers are required by law to state if their product contains wheat. They are not, however, required to disclose if it has gluten.
Remember: Wheat free does not mean gluten free
Here’s a list of gluten containing ingredients to look out for:
- Artificial color
- Baking powder
- Caramel color/flavoring
- Citric acid (can be fermented from wheat, corn, molasses or beets)
- Fat replacers
- Food starch
- Glucose syrup
- Modified food starch
- Natural juices
- Natural Flavors
- Wheat starch
You may see disclaimers such as “Processed in a facility that also processes wheat” or “Made on shared equipment with wheat-containing food” on items that are labeled gluten free. This is the food company’s way of telling you that there is possible cross-contamination. Many people with Celiac disease react to even the smallest trace of gluten – however – according to the FDA, food that is labeled “Gluten Free” must contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten.
I have a post dedicated to explaining the difference between Gluten Free and Certified Gluten Free. You can find it here.
Wow! We just covered a ton of info. Any questions? Comments? Complete the form below to reach me.