3 Ways To Tell if You Have a Gluten Sensitivity

Food sensitivity expert, Dr. Doni Wilson, shares three ways you can determine whether you have gluten sensitivity. 

While awareness of gluten-free eating has increased, there are still many people suffering from symptoms that could be resolved by following a gluten-free diet. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to identify whether or not you have gluten sensitivity for the following reasons:

a)    Not everyone experiences the same symptoms in the same parts of the body:

The symptoms of gluten sensitivity can show up basically anywhere in the body depending on your susceptibility.

b)   Symptoms might not come on immediately after eating gluten

It could take days, or even a week, for the symptoms to occur, by which point you’ve likely eaten several (if not many) servings of gluten as well as other kinds of food and so wouldn’t be able to tell that gluten was the cause.

c)    Gluten has an addictive nature

This means that once you eat it, you are likely to crave more, and are therefore not so apt to give it up easily.

d)   A standard test does not exist

Researchers only recently (in 2011) named gluten sensitivity and have not yet determined a standard test for diagnosing it. It is not diagnosed with the same tests that are used to diagnose Celiac disease.

To choose to avoid gluten requires diligence because it is used in so many common foods and meals, and exposure is highly likely unless you are on the look-out for it. It is only with a goal of health improvement that most people start down the path of eating gluten-free.
To help you know whether gluten may be an issue for your health, I am sharing three ways to tell if you may have gluten sensitivity.

1. Do you experience these symptoms?

Having three or more of the symptoms and health issues listed below indicates that you may have gluten sensitivity. Even if you have one of these health issues, it would be worth considering gluten as an underlying cause. Of course not everyone with these symptoms is sensitive to gluten, but if your symptoms continue despite what you’ve tried, eating gluten-free is one possible solution.

Some but not all patients with gluten sensitivity experience digestive symptoms, such as:

  • Reflux
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • IBS
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Stomach pain

Other patients only experience symptoms in other areas of their body, such as:

  • Frequent infections (viruses, bacteria, and/or yeast) in any location (sinuses, bladder, skin, or other location).
  • Pain such as headaches, migraines, joint pain, muscle aches, fibromyalgia, and/or pelvic pain.
  • Neurological symptoms like dizziness, tingling, numbness, and weakness.
  • Mental/emotional symptoms such as brain fog, decreased memory, lack of focus, anxiety, depression, PMS, mood changes, and sleep issues.
  • Skin rashes such as hives, eczema, acne, rosacea, dandruff, warts, and psoriasis.
  • Autoimmunity such as Hashimoto’s, Lupus, M.S., Rheumatoid arthritis, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s, and others.

Other common health issues association with gluten sensitivity include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
  • Hair loss
  • Nutrient deficiencies (iron, vitamin D, B vitamins, and others)
  • Fertility issues
  • Thyroid issues

2. Try avoiding gluten and see how you feel

You can try avoiding gluten for at least three weeks to see how you feel. I say “at least” because for some people it can take as long as six months to feel a difference. During this time of elimination, take note (and even journal) about how you feel.

Keep in mind that gluten causes leaky gut, which leads to other food sensitivities, so it is quite likely that if you are reacting to gluten, you are probably reacting to other foods too. And you may only feel significantly better if you eliminate all the foods that are triggering a response. The best way to determine all your food sensitivities is with option 3 below.

Following the Stress Remedy Program, which I designed, is one way to implement a gluten-free diet. The program also helps you to avoid sugar, dairy products, soy and eggs and is designed as a 7 or 21 day program, but you could certainly extend it for longer.

Then, after avoiding gluten for a period of time, have a serving of food containing gluten (or up to three servings that one day) and notice how you feel over the following two to five days. Do symptoms that had disappeared reappear? Do other symptoms occur?

If you have symptoms upon reintroducing gluten, that is considered to be a positive gluten sensitivity.

3. Do an IgG and IgA food sensitivity panel

Gluten sensitivity can show as IgG and/or IgA antibody responses to gluten, and gluten-containing grains. It may also show as anti-gliadin antibodies, but not always.

You can get your antibodies checked in a blood test – done either by blood draw or with a finger poke. There are even ways that you can order this type of test online and do it at home – click here to find out more.

I suggest checking for food sensitivities to other foods as well, because with gluten sensitivity, and the symptoms mentioned above, it is quite likely that you may also be reacting to such foods as dairy products, eggs, beans, and other grains.

Note that gluten sensitivity will NOT show with an intestinal biopsy. That is considered to be the standard way to diagnose Celiac disease, but does not show gluten sensitivity.

What next?

Once you know whether you have gluten sensitivity, the next step is to adjust your diet to ensure that you avoid gluten and enjoy continued good health. I’d be happy to help you with that – click here to make an appointment.

For gluten related resources and support from me, check these blog posts:

Closing thoughts

Discovering that you have a gluten sensitivity could change your life – for the better! It could mean losing the weight you’ve been trying to lose, increasing your energy, getting rid of pain and other un-resolving symptoms, and simply moving forward with your goals, whether that is pregnancy, a project that requires focus, or simply enjoying life without infections and a need for medications.

That seems worth figuring out to me. What do you think? Please do share your thoughts below.

Dr. Doni
8th May 2014

Comments

  1. How do I know what foods to eat if so many foods contain gluten? If I stop eating: bread, cereal, milk, yogurt, ice cream, certain meats, all kinds of sauces such as: ketchup, mayo, soy sauce, gravy, salad dressings etc… soup, pasta, egg, rice, cheese, junk food, and I’m sure there are more foods to avoid. What type of food can I eat other than fruits, vegatables, fish and some meat?

    • There are gluten-free versions of condiments and soups, so you don’t have to eliminate them altogether, just need to find replacements that are gluten-free. Rice is gluten-free, and there are several other gluten-free grains, such as quinoa and millet. I think you might find it helpful to check out this post about help eating gluten-free: https://doctordoni.com/2009/10/starting-out-on-a-gluten-free-quest.html And also, you might consider following the Hamptons Cleanse because the program will support you with what TO eat: TheHamptonsCleanse.com.

  2. Hi! I feel like I’m stuck, and not sure what to do next. I’ve always had stomach issues, but it wasn’t until I had my second daughter I couldn’t take it anymore. Everytime I would eat, I would have horrible pain around belly button, ribs, then immediately have severe diarrhea. Afterwards, I wouldn’t feel better I would just cramp. I’m always bloated, and look like I’m pregnant. My back right ribs hurt, and now a constant pain/burning feeling on my right side around ribs. Also, I’ve gained almost 20 lbs since May & have been eating healthy. I finally went to the dr, and she ordered an ultrasound. They found sludge all in my gallbladder, but said she wanted to try this prescription bloating medicine for a month and see if it helped. It hasn’t helped at all. I’ve been doing a lot of research because I think she’s missing something. Does this sound more like a gut leak? I’m just not sure what my next step should be? Thanks a lot!

    • Hi Katie, it definitely sounds to me that looking further into your symptoms and doing some tests that help us understand the issue could be very helpful for you. As I’ve mentioned in articles, many practitioners are not aware of testing for more “functional” causes, food sensitivities, and/or leaky gut. I’d be happy to help you – we’d want to meet so I can review your case and provide individualized suggestions.