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Symptoms of Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

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’).

Before going gluten-free, complete our celiac disease symptoms checklist and share the results with your doctor.

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:

  • Abdominal pain/stomach pain
    • Pain in the abdominal area. Can range from mild to severe and temporary to long-term. May be secondary, i.e., caused by another symptom, such as constipation.
  • Bloating
    • If you’re bloated, your stomach may feel tight, swollen, and/or painfully full. This is sometimes due to gas.
  • Diarrhea
    • 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
    • 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.
  • Nausea
    • An upset stomach; the feeling that you need to vomit.
  • Vomit
    • Needing to throw up after eating.
  • Headaches
    • Pain in any part of the head, from the front to the back, on one side or both, at the top or base, etc. Pain can be a dull ache or a sharp, throbbing burst.
  • Brain fog
    • An inability to focus due to slow or sluggish thinking, or due to difficulty remembering. It may also feel like persistent confusion and forgetfulness, or a lack of clarity.
  • Joint pain
    • 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.
  • Neuropathy
    • A feeling of numbness or tingling, which may or may not be painful. It is most common in the hands and feet, but other body parts can be affected.
  • Fatigue
    • 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.
  • Skin problems
    • Some patients experience rashes similar to eczema or psoriasis, but more research is needed to establish a direct correlation with gluten sensitivity.
  • Depression
    • 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.
  • Anxiety
    • Anxiety is persistent and intense worry, generally over mundane, everyday tasks or situations.
  • Anemia
    • 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.

Diagnosing Gluten Sensitivity / Gluten Intolerance

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.

Think you may have celiac disease?

Symptoms Checklist
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