Are you gluten-intolerant? 5 surprising signs you might be coeliac

Intolerant London: 5 Surprising Signs you might have coeliac or a gluten allergy

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For the lucky among you, the diagnosis of coeliac or a gluten allergy may have been fairly straightforward. You may have found yourself on the toilet too often (or too little!) or breaking out in itchy rashes after your lunch. Maybe a trip to the doctor to investigate your symptoms shed light on the situation, or perhaps like me after experiencing irritable bowel syndrome you did your own research and found that cutting out bread, pasta, beer and certain cereals alleviated your symptoms.

The great work done by charities like Coeliac UK and Allergy UK continues to fund research into such special dietary requirements, and as this progresses, the number of associated symptoms continues to rise. Here we look at five surprising signs you may be allergic to gluten.

Hair Loss

Worried about your receding hairline? Thinking of following the likes of Wayne Rooney in getting a hair transplant? There may be an easier way to grow back your luscious locks – cutting out gluten. In 1995 a study in Italy found that several patients with alopecia also had coeliac disease. In fact, one patient discovered that cutting out gluten from his diet led to the complete regrowth of hair on his scalp. Dr Stephen Wangen, founder of the Center for Food Allergies, discusses in his book Healthier Without Wheat how hair loss is associated with immune disorders, and as coeliac is an autoimmune disease, the link between alopecia and coeliac is fairly clear. Consumption of gluten for coeliac sufferers can lead to malabsorption of nutrients and inflammation of the bowel, which can in some cases lead to hair loss.

Tooth enamel issues

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Despite the fact gluten affects the small intestine for those with coeliac disease, sufferers are actually more likely to experience problems with their tooth enamel than their bowel according to reports. In a 2013 study published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine, Italian researchers found that of 54 patients with coeliac disease, 46 experienced enamel defects – a higher proportion than those with gastrointestinal symptoms. Two possible explanations were suggested for this link: autoimmune deficiencies caused by coeliac disease may affect tooth development, while the malabsorption of certain nutrients (including calcium and vitamin D) may prevent patients from building healthy tooth enamel. While there are several other possible causes of unhealthy tooth enamel, any sensitivity you’re experiencing may be worth investigating.

Depression

As with gluten allergies & coeliac disease, our knowledge of mental health issues continuously evolves as medical research progresses. In recent years, however, various reports have linked coeliac disease with the most common of mental health issues – depression. A study recorded in the Journal of Affective Orders in 2006 found that those with coeliac disease were 1.8 times as likely to develop depression than those without it. Again, this could be linked to the coeliac-caused malabsorption of certain vitamins and minerals like vitamin B-12, but shows that the autoimmune deficiency, typically linked with physical symptoms, can also have a major effect on one’s mental health.

Mouth ulcers

Granted, mouth ulcers may not be the most ‘serious’ of symptoms, but anyone who has had an outbreak will tell you how irritating and unpleasant they can be. Often linked with stress and infections, it has been found that mouth ulcers can also be a symptom of coeliac disease. Aphthous stomatitis, as it’s known in medical circles, can manifest itself in coeliac sufferers as their body attacks itself as their immune system reacts to the consumption of gluten. The link between mouth ulcers and coeliac can be particularly elusive, as it may be the only symptom a sufferer experiences, and the lack of any typical telltale signs may mean the disease continues undiagnosed.

Reproductive Issues

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Arguably the most worrying of symptoms, there are two main reproductive issues that have been linked with gluten-:

1 – Infertility

The links with infertility and coeliac disease are less established than the other symptoms in this list. However, it’s thought that folic acid, iron, zinc and selenium – all essential nutrients for a healthy reproductive life, are often deficient in coeliac sufferers. This may cause the delayed onset of periods (or no periods at all, known as amenorrhea), or earlier menopause in women, while men may experience impotence, reduced sperm motility, abnormal issues or even a decreased interest in their sex life.

2 – Miscarriages

According to Coeliac UK, “Women with untreated or undiagnosed coeliac disease are more likely to experience recurrent miscarriages and have a baby with a low birth weight or a premature baby.” Studies have shown that there is an increased chance of suffering a miscarriage in those with coeliac disease than those without.

It’s thought that coeliac antibodies in cases of untreated coeliac disease may have a negative influence during the early stages of pregnancy in particular. Undiagnosed coeliac disease can also delay the menopause by 3 – 5 years.

While any of the above symptoms in isolation are unlikely to be caused by a gluten-intolerance or coeliac disease, for most of them there are clear links and as research continues, these links become stronger. If you are experiencing any of these and have so far been unable to get to the root cause, it’s certainly worth speaking to your GP.

Have you ever experienced any of these, or any other unusual symptoms caused by a gluten-intolerance? We’d love to hear from you if you have. Please comment below!

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