Gluten intolerance is a fairly common problem.
It is characterized by adverse reactions to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.
Celiac disease is the most severe form of gluten intolerance.
It is an autoimmune disease that affects about 1% of the population and may lead to damage in the digestive system (1, 2).
However, 0.5–13% of people may also have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, a milder form of gluten intolerance that can still cause problems (3, 4).
Both forms of gluten intolerance can cause widespread symptoms, many of which have nothing to do with digestion.
Here are the 14 main signs and symptoms of gluten intolerance.
Bloating is when you feel as if your belly is swollen or full of gas after you’ve eaten. This can make you feel miserable (5).
Although bloating is very common and can have many explanations, it may also be a sign of gluten intolerance.
In fact, feeling bloated is one of the most common complaints of people who are sensitive or intolerant to gluten (6, 7).
One study showed that 87% of people who had suspected non-celiac gluten sensitivity experienced bloating (8).
2. Diarrhea, Constipation and Smelly Feces
Occasionally getting diarrhea and constipation is normal, but it may be a cause for concern if it happens regularly.
These also happen to be a common symptom of gluten intolerance.
Individuals with celiac disease experience inflammation in the gut after eating gluten.
This damages the gut lining and leads to poor nutrient absorption, resulting in significant digestive discomfort and frequent diarrhea or constipation (9).
However, gluten may also cause digestive symptoms in some people who don’t have celiac disease (10, 11, 12, 13).
More than 50% of gluten-sensitive individuals regularly experience diarrhea, while about 25% experience constipation (8).
Furthermore, individuals with celiac disease may experience pale and foul-smelling feces due to poor nutrient absorption.
Frequent diarrhea can cause some major health concerns, such as loss of electrolytes, dehydration and fatigue (14).
3. Abdominal Pain
Abdominal pain is very common and can have numerous explanations.
However, it is also the single most common symptom of an intolerance to gluten (13, 15, 16).
Up to 83% of those with gluten intolerance experience abdominal pain and discomfort after eating gluten (8, 17).