What is gluten intolerance? It is a disorder that occurs when there are harmful intestinal sensitivities to gluten; a protein found in many of today’s processed foods and numerous grains, namely wheat, barley, rye, kamut and even spelt. Gluten is also the culprit of the related condition- celiac disease, which, unlike non-celiac gluten intolerance or sensitivity (used interchangeably), is an autoimmune reaction to gluten that destroys the lining of the small intestine. While it is not known exactly what causes celiac disease, analysis of symptoms gluten intolerance exhibits are leading doctors to believe that the disease can cause a long list of scary medical conditions. Let’s compare the symptoms gluten intolerance may display in men vs women.
Some of the symptoms gluten intolerance presents are common in both men and women: there is abdominal bloating and pain, diarrhea, weakness, and weight loss. The symptom of losing weight is directly related to the above diarrhea and poor nutrition intake. Gluten intolerance is also one of the causes of constipation; we see that this happens due to intestinal problems. Gluten- induced diarrhea, bloating, flatulence, foul smelling stools that appear oily or fatty and are greyish or pale in color, often leadto constipation. Gluten intolerance, when left ignored, often goes hand in hand with lactose intolerance, because gluten damages the intestinal cells that generate lactase, the enzyme in charge of digesting lactose. Some men also experience symptoms such as muscle cramps, anemia, lack of concentration at the work place, hair loss, vomiting, hypoglycaemia, mouth sores, dental disorders, tingling sensation in the legs and feet (peripheral neuropathy), and skin rashes.
Men are also typically prone to dermatitis herpetiformis (DH), an autoimmune disease related to gluten intolerance, which is expressed in a form of tiny blisters (skin lesions) on elbows, back, buttocks and knees, accompanied by intense itching and burning. Out of estimated 11 in 100,000 people affected by DH globally, 15 to 25 percent of people, typically men in 20s to 40s, suffer from DH.
Finally, gluten intolerance in its most extreme form of a celiac disease has been identified as a contributing factor to male infertility.
Although there are currently no reliable tests for gluten intolerance available today, when it comes to the disease, more women are diagnosed than men, likely because more women visit their doctor to seek answers. While most digestion- related symptoms gluten intolerance causes in women are observed to be similar to those in men as listed above, there are slight differences. One symptom is similar to the beginning of the pregnancy phase: there are missing periods. Irregular menstrual cycles and early menopause are also common in celiac women. When the digestion is affected, at times the reproductive system follows. Sometimes these lead to extreme and rare cases, where the woman can develop fertility problems and risk of pregnancy miscarriage. In fact, the World Journal of Gastroenterology confirmed in 2003 that untreated celiac disease in women increases the risk of miscarriage by 8.9 times, in addition to a 30 percent decrease in the baby’s weight at birth.
Additional symptoms gluten intolerance shows in females include fatigue or hyperactivity, depression, irritability, dry skin, skin rashes, acne, headaches, osteoporosis and bone pain, easy bruising and malnutrition. Women can also have fluid retention in the foot area.
Because wheat is on the list of the most allergenic foods, more and more men and women are switching to the gluten intolerance diet, as to eliminate the unpleasant symptoms gluten causes and improve their digestion, and consequently, overall health.