Gluten intolerance: what are the signs that should alert you?

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What are the signs of gluten intolerance ?

First of all, when it comes to gluten intolerance, it is important to differentiate between gluten sensitivity (which is characterized in particular by bloating), and celiac disease, which is much more insidious, which is chronic autoimmune bowel disease.

The most well-known disease of the adverse reactions to wheat is called celiac disease, which actually refers to gluten intolerance.

About a third of the population in France has a genetic predisposition to this gluten intolerance, which can appear at any age but which affects only one in 10 French people: one day, we become sensitive to something that it has been tolerated so far, resulting in an immune reaction.

In people who complain of gluten sensitivity, one should distinguish food allergy to wheat, which does not manifest itself in digestive signs, unlike gluten intolerance.

Common symptoms of a wheat allergy are:

  • Rhinitis
  • A respiratory problem
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Hives

Signs of gluten intolerance can be:

  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Digestive discomfort
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss
  • Multiple deficiencies

Other symptoms associated with this autoimmune disease should alert:

  • Inflammatory rheumatism
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Infertility

Celiac disease: the consequences of gluten intolerance

Even without digestive signs, in the case of celiac disease, we still have malabsorption in the small intestine, which can lead to deficiencies (calcium, vitamin D), with a risk of demineralization of the bones, and a risk fractures.

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Also, consuming gluten will stimulate cells constantly, which can put you at higher risk of cancer (lymphoma of the small intestine, for example).

As in the case of all autoimmune diseases, the immune system can be weakened, and be more vulnerable to attacks.

Are there tests to find out if you are gluten intolerant?

In case of symptoms or in doubt, it is recommended to consult your general practitioner.

To find out if you are gluten intolerant, it will be necessary to identify an antibody directed against an enzyme, called cellular transglutaminase, through a blood test (reimbursed by Social Security). The objective is to measure the level of a certain type of antibody, revealing the pathology.

Be careful, if in doubt, consult your doctor before removing gluten from your daily diet yourself. Because, if there is a suspicion of gluten intolerance (celiac disease), and if gluten is stopped, after a few weeks or months, the antibodies will disappear and will no longer be visible during the blood test.

In children, if gluten intolerance is confirmed, and if the form of the disease is classic, they are put on a gluten-free diet.

In adults, it is necessary to perform a fibroscopy to take biopsies, to see if there is already an infiltration, and if it is necessary to adapt the treatment and management.

Finally, it is possible to test its genetic predisposition, thanks to a blood test, which is not reimbursed.

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Treatments: how to cure gluten intolerance?

Even if specialists are studying avenues for the management of gluten intolerance, no drug has yet been found, due to a benefit / risk ratio that is too low.

In some countries, drugs which would be able to “destroy gluten” are available, but they are not distributed in France. Also, trials are being carried out for treatments which aim to block the immune reactions which occur in the body in contact with gluten, but these are, for the moment, only avenues envisaged.

Once gluten intolerance is triggered, celiac disease is confirmed, there is therefore no treatment today to cure it. The only solution is to stop eating gluten, by adopting a gluten-free diet for life, with the help of a dietitian.

Good to know : if celiac disease is diagnosed, theHealth Insurance partially covers the cost of gluten-free foods. This is not the case in the case of simple sensitivity or allergy to gluten.

What foods do not contain gluten?

Many everyday foods contain gluten (in bread, in pasta, etc.). Sometimes, gluten can even be hidden, because it is used as a thickener, in the composition of certain medicines, sauces or even chewing gum.

To be sure not to consume gluten when you are intolerant, you must cook from raw, unprocessed products, and learn to read labels, because not all starches are wheat starches!

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Note that registration “trace of gluten” on a label, indicates that the amount of this starch is minimal, so that the food is edible by an intolerant person, but not for patients with gluten allergy.

The foods that you can cook, eat, without asking questions when you suffer from gluten intolerance are:

  • The vegetables
  • The fruits
  • Potatoes
  • The corn
  • Dry vegetables
  • Quinoa
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products

Thanks to Professor Stéphane Schneider, Gastroenterologist and hepatologist (CHU Nice), member of the Medical Committee of the Association Française Des Intolérants au Gluten (AFDIAG), www.afdiag.fr

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