According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, around 1 in every 135 Americans suffers from gluten hypersensitivity or Celiac disease. Also known as celiac disease, ‘sprue’ or gluten-sensitive enteropathy, Gluten hypersensitivity occurs when the body is not able to tolerate gluten found in barley, wheat or rye.

Gluten stimulates an autoimmune response in the human body that can damage the linings in the small intestines referred to as villi. The only treatment for gluten intolerance is to practice a gluten-free diet. Gluten allergy symptoms may be similar to other medical conditions; it would be helpful to see your doctor if you think you have this medical condition for accurate diagnosis.

Gluten Hypersensitivity in Adults

  • Gastrointestinal symptoms: Gluten hypersensitivity symptoms usually manifest in the digestive tract. Symptoms may include bloating, abdominal cramps, intestinal gas and bowel pattern changes. Constipation or diarrhea can also occur together with foul smelling stools. The digestive manifestations of gluten hypersensitivity may imitate symptoms of other diseases like Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome.

  • Rash: A condition called dermatitis herpetiformis may also occur with gluten intolerance. Antibodies that are released from gluten ingestion may deposit under the skin, causing clusters of watery and itching blisters. There are patients who only manifest DH as a sign of gluten hypersensitivity. Signs of DH include patches of itchy skin that are painful to touch. The rash can also develop into raised areas in the skin that transform into watery and very itchy blisters. The rash usually forms on knees, face, buttocks, elbows, shoulders and scalp.

  • Fatigue: Gluten causes the destruction of the finger-like projections in the small intestines called villi. This part of the body is responsible for nutrient absorption. If too many villi are affected by the condition, lack of energy and malnourishment can occur. Someone with gluten hypersensitivity can expect bouts of fatigue from time to time.

  • Musculoskeletal problems: Osteoporosis and thinning bones may occur in individuals with gluten hypersensitivity due to lack of calcium absorption. Joint problems are common such as pain and arthritis. Nerves and muscles may also be affected, resulting in generalized muscular pain and tingling or numbness in the hands or feet.

Gluten Hypersensitivity in Children

  • Classic symptoms: Infants and children usually exhibit the classic Celiac disease symptoms like adults. These can include gas, abdominal bloating, vomiting, unaccountable weight loss, failure to thrive or FTT, constipation or diarrhea, pallor, and fatty, foul smelling stools. Gluten allergy symptoms can occur as soon as the child begins eating solid foods, but are variable depending on the age and the extent of damage in the small intestine. Gluten hypersensitivity can be accidentally found in the hematology test of children who also have autoimmune disorders such as insulin dependent diabetes.

  • Atypical symptoms: The prevalence of symptoms associated with gluten hypersensitivity seems to lead health practitioners in other directions, so the condition is often under diagnosed or misdiagnosed. On average, it takes ten years or more for sufferers to go for a consultation with a medical practitioner. A research study about Celiac disease showed that atypical symptoms can be seen more often than the common manifestations associated with CD in children. Some children had stunted growth or exhibited muscle wasting while others were overweight. Nutritional status varied ranging from over nutrition to malnutrition.