Gluten sensitivity is a disorder in which the body cannot tolerate gluten, a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. It is not life-threatening, although it can be uncomfortable and affect daily life.
If you have been suffering from symptoms after ingesting gluten and have tested negative for celiac disease it may be possible that you have non-celiac gluten sensitivity (‘gluten sensitivity’ or sometimes referred to as ‘gluten intolerance’).
Common Symptoms of Gluten Sensitivity/Gluten Intolerance
There is a wide variety of symptoms associated with non-celiac gluten sensitivity, ranging from issues affecting the digestive tract to neurological complications and possibly even skin problems. Here are a few of the most common ones:
If you have loose, watery stools that lack a distinct shape three or more times in a day, you likely have diarrhea. Some people with NCGS have diarrhea, some have constipation, and some have no GI symptoms at all.
Constipation is characterized by having three or fewer bowel movements per week. Hard, dry, and/or lumpy stools are also common in constipation. Stool is difficult or painful to pass, and you may have a sensation that not all of the poop has actually come out. Some people with NCGS have diarrhea, some have constipation, and some have no GI symptoms at all.
Joints are the points on the body where two bones meet, like the knuckles, elbows, knees, ankles, shoulders, etc. If you have joint pain, it may hurt to move or bend because the joints are stiff. It can feel like a dull ache or a sudden stabbing pain.
Fatigue isn’t just feeling tired every now and again. Fatigue is a constant sense of tiredness or weakness. People with fatigue often want to sleep more often, but no amount of sleep seems to make the tired feeling go away.
Some patients experience rashes similar to eczema or psoriasis, but more research is needed to establish a direct correlation with gluten sensitivity.
Depression isn’t just feeling sad every now and again. It’s a long-term feeling of emptiness or sadness. Loss of interest in activities and feelings of overtiredness are commonly associated with depression.
A condition characterized by a lack of functioning red blood cells. It can cause weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath, pallor, lightheadedness and a fast heartbeat.
What’s the Difference Between Gluten Sensitivity and Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition triggered by gluten. People with celiac disease have intestinal damage when they eat gluten. People who are gluten intolerant, while they may experience symptoms similar to those with celiac disease, do not have the intestinal damage or antibodies found in those with celiac disease.
New research indicates that gluten could cause brain damage in people with gluten intolerance, although more research is needed to confirm this.
It is important to distinguish between celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, also known as gluten intolerance, in order to ensure you get the right care. Your doctor can test for celiac disease with a simple blood test. If your test results for celiac disease are negative but you still have symptoms, you may then be diagnosed with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Learn more about getting tested for celiac disease.
An important note on getting tested: you must continue to eat gluten. Going gluten-free before getting tested can affect your results. If you’re already gluten-free but want to get tested, consider undergoing a gluten challenge.
Complete our celiac disease symptoms checklist and then share the results with your doctor to get the conversation about getting testing started.
Download the Beyond Celiac Gluten Sensitivity Guide
New to NCGS, or just want to learn more about gluten intolerance? Download our free guide! The Gluten Sensitivity Guide is a comprehensive resource covering symptoms, testing, research and more! Download the guide.