Five Signs You Have a Gluten Problem

For far too long it has been assumed that only people with Celiac’s need to avoid gluten. The connection of gluten and Celiac’s disease put gluten squarely in the realm of the gastroenterologist and gut – to propose that gluten could cause other non-gut related problems has been considered taboo until recently.

But is it only diagnosed Celiac’s that should be concerned about gluten? And, is Celiac’s really just a gut condition anyway?

Every day in our clinic we see people recovering from conditions affecting all organs of the body by adopting a gluten free diet. We’re not alone, countless anecdotal stories testify to the difference gluten free living has made to health. Finally, research is catching on and scientists are looking outside the gut for evidence of damage caused by gluten[1]. The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center lists 300 common symptoms of Celiac disease, of which many occur outside the gut.

If you experience any of these five common non-gut symptoms, you may be intolerant to gluten and should trial a gluten free diet to see whether symptoms improve.

Skin Allergies, Eczema & Rashes

In naturopathic philosophy bowel and, intestinal health effects the appearance of the skin. Dry skin, eczema, psoriasis, and skin allergies are all signs of an over burdened and under functioning bowel.

This connection has also been made scientifically. Skin conditions including dermatitis herpetiformis, psoriasis, dermatitis, and urticaria have been associated with celiac disease and gluten sensitive intestinal damage (enteropathy)[2].

Adopting a gluten free diet often doesn’t make an immediate difference to skin disorders – it can take 2–3 months for smaller outbreaks and even longer for larger outbreaks. A gluten free diet however, is a far better alternative than lifetime use of steroid creams.

We find the skin provides a good warning that you may be consuming hidden sources of gluten as these can often trigger outbreaks of eczema or hives.

Joint Pain

Two of the most common joint conditions we see in our clinic are related to gluten sensitivity. Ankylosing spondylitis and rheumatoid arthritis have both been classified as autoimmune conditions. In auto immune conditions, the immune system becomes hyper-sensitive and mistakes the bodies own cells for pathogens. Aside from genetic causes and infection, constant immune stimulation because of dietary allergens, such as gluten, is a major cause of auto immune conditions.

We have found both ankylosing spondylitis, and rheumatoid arthritis respond well to a gluten free diet and naturopathically prescribed supplementation program. Usually, clients report reductions in pain and improvements in mobility within 2–4 weeks.

Poor Mood & Brain Fog

Gluten intolerance has been associated with some mood and mental health conditions ranging from depression, anxiety, anger and brain fog through to psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia[3]. Brain fog, particularly, we find responds well to a gluten free diet.

The exact mechanism remains unclear; however, some researchers have suggested that inflammation in the gut from gluten leads to imbalanced neurotransmitter production in the autonomic nervous system. This imbalance of neurotransmitters affects mood and nervous system function.

It is important to emphasise that a gluten free diet is not a substitute to proper professional advice from a qualified mental health practitioner.


We all know that certain foods trigger headaches. Have you ever had a sugar hang over after eating too much sugar?

Like sugar, gluten is a common food that can trigger headaches and migraines in people with gluten sensitivity[4]. In many cases, following a gluten free diet will lead to reductions in both headache frequency and severity.

We find that if headaches are related to gluten sensitivity they stop shortly after removing gluten from the diet and will reoccur when gluten is re-introduced.


Fatigue is a common complaint that many people tolerate daily. We tend to assume that our constant fatigue and tiredness are just signs of our busy lifestyles and being plugged in 24×7.

In our clinic, we find that fatigue can often be another warning sign of gluten sensitivity. Like any allergy, in gluten sensitive people gluten exposure will trigger an inflammatory, allergic response in the body, this inflammation in turn leads to fatigue.

Where gluten sensitivity is the underlying cause of fatigue, a gluten free diet will generally give results in 2–4 weeks. If you still experience problems it is important to consult with a qualified health care provider who can organise suitable blood tests.

  1. Anna Sapone, Julio Bai, Carolina Ciacci, Jernej Dolinsek, Peter Green, Marios Hadjivassiliou, Katri Kaukinen, Kamran Rostami, David Sanders, Michael Schumann, Reiner Ullrich, Danilo Villalta, Umberto Volta, Carlo Catassi, and Alessio Fasano. Spectrum of gluten-related disorders: consensus on new nomenclature and classification. BMC Medicine, 10(1):13, 2012.
  2. Marzia Caproni, Veronica Bonciolini, Antonietta D’Errico, Emiliano Antiga, and Paolo Fabbri. Celiac disease and dermatologic manifestations: many skin clue to unfold gluten-sensitive enteropathy. Gastroenterology Research and Practice, 2012:12, 2012.
  3. Dr. Rodney Ford. Gluten Zero: Global.,2013
  4. M. Hadjivassiliou, R.A. Grünewald, M. Lawden, G.A.B. Davies–Jones, T. Powell, and C.M.L. Smith. Headache and cns white matter abnormalities associated with gluten sensitivity. Neurology, 56(3):385–388, 2001.