Gluten is almost everywhere. It’s found in bread, pasta, breakfast cereals, sauces, and sweets.
However, this protein is relatively new to the human digestive system. We introduced it into our diets only 8,000 years ago. Historians believe our species evolved about 2.5 million ago, which means that our species has spent most of its existence on a hunter-gatherer diet heavy in game meat with seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Today, most people are adapted to gluten, but if you’re among the minority who don’t feel well after consuming gluten, you may be suffering from celiac disease. It’s a condition in which the immune system mistakes the gluten protein for a virus and attacks it, damaging the small intestine and causing symptoms.
Not everyone who feels unwell after eating gluten has celiac disease. Gluten intolerance is far more common, and it has some symptoms that overlap with celiac disease.
Do you want to gain a better understanding of how celiac disease manifests itself? Below, we asked our experts at Carolina Digestive Health Associates to share some of the most common symptoms of the disease.
Paradoxically, celiac disease can cause both diarrhea and constipation. If fats aren’t properly absorbed in the gut due to celiac disease, stools are loose, foul-smelling, and greasy.
However, in certain people, celiac disease causes the small intestine to absorb too much water from the stool, causing constipation.
With celiac disease, bloating occurs due to an inflammatory response in the gut each time a person eats foods containing gluten.
Because the immune system attacks the gut, there’s always an overload of undigested food as long as gluten is present in the gut. The undigested food can sometimes cause gas.
You can end up losing weight if your body doesn’t properly absorb the nutrients and calories from the food you eat. In children, this can lead to delayed puberty and stunted growth.
Another consequence of poor digestion, anemia can occur due to poor absorption of iron from food.
Celiac sufferers sometimes experience a specific type of skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis. This rash can appear anywhere on the body. It’s itchy and can form blisters.
Some celiacs may also develop peripheral neuropathy. Many autoimmune diseases end up harming the nerves. Signs of neuropathy include numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness.
Depression can appear as a consequence of poor absorption of certain key nutrients such as B vitamins, which in turn can influence the levels of serotonin in the brain.
The symptoms above don’t always indicate celiac disease. However, there’s only one way to find out if you have it: get tested.
Our staff at Carolina Digestive Health Associates performs celiac disease testing and is equipped to diagnose many digestive conditions that could be at the root of your symptoms. Contact us to schedule an appointment and find the source of your discomfort.