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Gluten Intolerance Symptoms in Women


“What are the symptoms of gluten intolerance in women? I have always eaten well but have recently battled with bloating, nausea and fatigue. Is gluten a problem in my life? Do I have celiac disease or gluten intolerance?”Petra R. Dallas, Texas

Symptoms of gluten intolerance in women are often difficult to diagnose because it often develops over a long period of time and is often misdiagnosed with other digestive disorders. Because many of us have a diet that is ‘rich in gluten’, gluten intolerance and celiac disease are on the rise and is currently known to affect 1 in 133 people. The majority of which are women.

Some of the most common symptoms of gluten intolerance in women is unexplained fatigue, bloating, swelling of the ankles, gas, diarrhea or constipation and joint, bone or muscle pain. Some women experience most of these symptoms and others experience only few.

Gluten intolerance symptoms in women can also include headaches, depression, poor concentration and dental enamel defects. Abnormal weight gain or loss is another common symptom caused by gluten intolerance or sensitivity.  Missed or delayed periods and sometimes mistaken pregnancy of the disease. celiac disease and gluten intolerance isn’t well known and more research is needed to determine as to why the reproductive system is affected.

The term gluten intolerance simply means the body’s intolerance to gluten. In this condition, a woman’s body develops certain auto antibodies against the proteins gliadin and glutenin present in gluten. The commons sources of gluten are wheat, rye, barley. Scientists believe that celiac disease and gluten intolerance originates from European culture and has been around for many generations. Statistics show that, about 2 million Americans suffers from the disease and most of those diagnosed are women. Women suffering from gluten intolerance, are unable to properly digest any food and as a result have a poor capacity for absorbing any nutrients from any food eaten. Our small intestine is responsible for absorbing nutrients from the food, and the antibodies gradually destroy the villi (small thread / hair like projection lining the small intestine), which in turn fail to absorb any nutrition form food.

“Symptoms of gluten intolerance in women can occur at any age.”

Gluten intolerance symptoms in women can occur at any age. As stated above, various studies have indicated that gluten intolerance affects women more than men (however another study shows that most men are not getting tested for the disease). This was studied by group researchers and doctors with the University of Federico II of Naples (Italy) and indicated that 3 times as many women suffer from celiac disease than men. It was also documented that more women experience gastrointestinal disturbance as compared to men suffering from the same disorder. Researchers believe that, gluten intolerance often appears after trauma resulting from, infections, physical injury, stress during pregnancy, post surgery or even severe psychological and/or emotional stress. There are several symptoms of gluten intolerance; however, no symptom represents a specific characteristic of this condition.

One has to understand that nutrition is important at any stage of the human life cycle. Gluten intolerance brings along with it malabsorption, a condition where there is poor absorption of nutrition. In such conditions, the body utilizes the nutrient stores and tries to maintain equilibrium in crisis situation. However, when the stores get depleted, the body then starts showing several signs and symptoms, which then later on manifests into diseases.

As discussed earlier, women suffering from gluten intolerance are more prone to gastric disturbances.

Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance in Women:

  • Intestinal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Flatulence
  • Bloating
  • Heart Burn
  • Abdominal pain

Some of the common manifestations of gluten intolerance in women include:

  • Pain in bone or joints
  • Delayed / Disrupted Menstrual Cycle
  • Amenorrhea or delayed menarche
  • Difficulty to conceive

Women may also experience pain in joints or bones due to depletion of calcium stores. This occurs because not enough calcium is absorbed from the food. Such condition will gradually lead to osteoporosis; a condition which makes the bone brittle and prone to frequent fractures. Undue fatigue, infertility, depression, mood swings, undue weight gain or weight loss also adds up to the list. Some women also face difficulties in conceiving and if at all they do are prone to frequent miscarriages. Contracting infections during such conditions is pretty common as the host becomes weak due to weakened immune system as the absorption of nutrients is to the minimum. In such cases, women develop vaginal and urinary tract infections. Majority of the women also suffer from reproductive related problems due to low levels of nutrition. Women who are pregnant and are living with gluten intolerance without any treatment have higher chances of delivering low birth weight babies.

Iron is one of the most important nutrients for maintaining blood and bone health of women. Damaged villus leads to poor absorption of iron from the diet. Poor or low levels of iron in the body results in to development of anemia in women.
Gluten intolerance in women leads to low levels of estrogen; which is the cause of severe pain during menstrual cycles and occurrence of irregular periods. Menopause can also come early in women; sometimes in their early twenties. Apart from this, premenstrual syndrome is another common accompaniment for women with gluten intolerance.

Looking out for symptoms of gluten intolerance in women is a serious issue and women must seek medical help whenever they notice the above mentioned symptoms. Some of the symptoms however, do not always point towards gluten intolerance, but keeping a check and ruling out possibilities is important to get the right treatment.

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