Gluten Sensitivity Symptoms and What They Mean For You



Wheat is one of the cor­ner­stones of west­ern civ­i­liza­tion.   The economies of the ear­ly cities of the Near East thrived on wheat.  Roman legions were fueled by it as they con­quered most of the known world.  And with­out boun­ti­ful amber waves of grain, the Unit­ed States could nev­er have risen to become the pre-emi­nent world pow­er.

Late­ly, though, the rep­u­ta­tion of wheat as a foun­da­tion of a healthy diet has been con­sid­er­ably tar­nished.

Sen­si­tiv­i­ty to the pro­teins in wheat – gluten – has been blamed for a wide range of con­di­tions, includ­ing:

  • abdom­i­nal pain, bloat­ing, or con­sti­pa­tion
  • mus­cle pain, joint pain, and arthri­tis
  • skin rash and oth­er skin con­di­tions
  • migraine
  • lupus and oth­er autoim­mune dis­or­ders
  • fatigue, depres­sion, lack of men­tal focus, and even schiz­o­phre­nia

If you have one or more of these symp­toms – or oth­er mal­adies that haven’t been effec­tive­ly diag­nosed and treat­ed – gluten sen­si­tiv­i­ty is a pos­si­ble cause.  And it’s easy to dis­cov­er how gluten affects your sys­tem.

Has wheat engineering gone too far?

The med­ical world has long rec­og­nized that a few patients have a severe sen­si­tiv­i­ty to the gluten in wheat.  (It’s also found in bar­ley, rye, and a few oth­er grains.)  These indi­vid­u­als – those with celi­ac dis­ease — have blood mark­ers that show a height­ened immune reac­tion to gluten, along with biop­sies show­ing sig­nif­i­cant dete­ri­o­ra­tion of the intesti­nal lin­ing.

But over the past ten or twen­ty years, we’ve also come to rec­og­nize a more mod­est ver­sion of gluten sen­si­tiv­i­ty — peo­ple who have a neg­a­tive response to gluten with­out sig­nif­i­cant dete­ri­o­ra­tion of the intesti­nal lin­ing.  Their prob­lems are more sub­tle.

Some physi­cians believe that as many as 40% of Amer­i­cans have a degree of gluten sen­si­tiv­i­ty.  The irri­ta­tion of the intesti­nal lin­ing from eat­ing wheat mag­ni­fies the effects of altered gut flo­ra, low-lev­el bow­el inflam­ma­tion, and enhanced per­me­abil­i­ty of the intesti­nal lin­ing.

Due to these inter­ac­tions, a com­plex array of symp­toms can emerge affect­ing oth­er aspects of diges­tion, nutri­tion, immune func­tion, hor­mon­al sig­nal­ing, and the ner­vous sys­tem.

The inci­dence of celi­ac dis­ease has quadru­pled since 1950, and the preva­lence of gluten sen­si­tiv­i­ty has prob­a­bly also increased.  Although humans have been manip­u­lat­ing the wheat genome for mil­len­nia, the pace of change has accel­er­at­ed over the past 20 years.  One the­o­ry about the rise of gluten sen­si­tiv­i­ty is that genet­ic manip­u­la­tion has cre­at­ed vari­eties of gluten that are stronger trig­gers.  Or it may be that oth­er envi­ron­men­tal or nutri­tion­al stres­sors have emerged recent­ly that make it dif­fi­cult for you to process gluten.

What’s the best way to diagnose gluten sensitivity?

If you’re con­cerned that gluten sen­si­tiv­i­ty may be a prob­lem for you, what’s the best way to find out?

Blood tests are some­times used in an attempt to diag­nose gluten intol­er­ance.  You can mea­sure the lev­el of your anti­bod­ies to gliadin, one of the major gluten pro­teins.  But the test isn’t very spe­cif­ic.

There’s only one gen­er­al­ly accept­ed way to deter­mine if you’re gluten intol­er­ant, and that’s a gluten avoid­ance diet.  You stay away from gluten for two weeks or more and see how your symp­toms respond.

The next arti­cle in this series will detail how to elim­i­nate gluten from your diet to deter­mine if you’re sen­si­tive to it.  And the steps you can take to rebuild your health if a gluten-free approach is need­ed.


Deepen Your Body of Knowledge

Eight best ways to detox your life

Six ways your diet is sab­o­tag­ing your health

Gluten Sen­si­tiv­i­ty — Part Two


About Ronald Lavine, D.C.

Dr. Lavine has more than thirty five years' experience helping patients alleviate pain and restore health using diverse, scientifically-based manual therapy and therapeutic exercise and alignment methods. His website,, provides more information about his approach. Please contact him at or at 212-400-9663.
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