Hidden signs of food intolerance and what they can do to your body if left untreated

It can be difficult to pinpoint the source of the discomfort, especially when we feel like we haven’t made major lifestyle changes. There’s not always an obvious culprit or obvious diagnosis for why we’re feeling unwell — and unfortunately, even troubling symptoms can start to feel like our norm. Many may not be aware that there can be hidden signs that we have food intolerances. These sensitivities can damage our bodies (not to mention our overall morale) if left untreated.

Gluten/wheat is often the cause of these hidden food intolerances, and more and more people are being diagnosed with gluten-related disorders.1 Whether you have undiagnosed celiac disease (CD) or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), it matters to be aware of the signs so that a change in diet or treatment can be initiated.

Common source of food intolerance
Gluten is a common source of food intolerance. Gluten is regularly found in a standard diet in the form of wheat, barley and rye products. A person with celiac disease triggers an autoimmune response that can damage the small intestine, increase intestinal permeability2 and cause other health problems, including severe abdominal pain, muscle spasms, joint pain and skin rashes. More than two million Americans have been diagnosed with celiac disease.3

It is now estimated that around 13%4 of the population has non-celiac gluten sensitivity. NCGS can cause diarrhea, gas, bloating, and fatigue, and can also be confused with or the cause of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)5.

These glitches can wreak havoc on our system. Confirming if someone has a gluten sensitivity is crucial to ensure we can adjust our diet to not only feel better, but to protect our bodies.

Hidden Signs of Wheat/Gluten Sensitivity
Here are some things to look out for when determining if CD or NCGS is involved:

Stomach problems – Digestive problems go hand in hand with CD or NCGS. If you experience abdominal pain or discomfort after eating — including gas, gas, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, or nausea — it’s possible that the cause was eating gluten (or other non-gluten components of wheat). These symptoms — aside from being downright uncomfortable — can end up causing harm to the body if they persist. However, some people with gluten sensitivity do not have digestive problems.

Chronic Fatigue – When we don’t feel well and have constant tummy problems or other negative health effects, chronic fatigue is likely to follow, leading to a lack of energy and an overall sluggish and tired feeling.

Malabsorption – When gluten attacks the small intestine, it can prevent the body from absorbing nutrients. This can have a variety of negative effects if left untreated as the body is unable to process the essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients needed to function properly.

Joint Pain – As the immune system responds to gluten, it causes miscommunication with the body and triggers a response to fight the gluten, leading to inflammation throughout the body and joint pain.

Gluten Ataxia (Balance Issues) – Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) from intestinal permeability (leaky gut) can lead to the breakdown of the blood-brain barrier that protects the brain from toxic compounds. Deterioration of the blood-brain barrier allows toxins to reach the brain and increases the risk of negative neurological effects such as balance disorders.

Depression – anxiety, irritability, and sometimes ADHD are warning signs for people with celiac disease and NCGS. Symptoms can last for hours to days and can severely impact the mental health of people with gluten sensitivity. When you consider someone consuming multiple meals with gluten each day, it can lead to ongoing mental health issues.

Brain Fog and Cognitive Problems – Gluten sensitivity can be the cause of decreased memory, lack of focus and brain fog. Other neurological impairments6 that can occur are serious cognitive problems. These would also be caused by damage to the blood-brain barrier from gut permeability and could even be linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

Headaches and Migraines – Another symptom of gluten sensitivity can be frequent headaches, including debilitating migraines. While many things can cause headaches or migraines, along with other signs on this list, they could potentially be linked to gluten consumption.

Look for the signs
Proper care and treatment for CD or NCGS is incredibly important to living a healthy life. Left untreated, gluten sensitivity can have a number of negative effects on the gut, brain, and overall general health.

A comprehensive wheat/gluten reactivity test can help identify wheat reactivity, NCGS, CD, food opioid reactivity, intestinal barrier damage and wheat-related autoimmunity. The test can be used when multiple symptoms are present to confirm gluten or wheat sensitivity. From there, patients and doctors can develop a diet and treatment plan to not only reduce symptoms, but to ensure these concerns are addressed and not left untreated to continue damaging important bodily functions.

About the author:

Chad Larson, NMD, DC, CCN, CSCS, is a consultant and advisor on the Clinical Advisory Team for Cyrex Laboratories (Phoenix, AZ). Cyrex Laboratories, a clinical laboratory specializing in functional immunology and autoimmunity, has developed a test panel called Array 3X – Wheat/Gluten Proteome Reactivity And Autoimmunity. This test is a comprehensive wheat/gluten reactivity test that can help identify wheat reactivity, NCGS, CD, food opioid reactivity, intestinal barrier damage and wheat-related autoimmunity. The test can be used when multiple symptoms are present to confirm gluten or wheat sensitivity. Larson holds a PhD in Naturopathic Medicine from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and a PhD in Chiropractic from Southern California University of Health Sciences. He is a certified clinical nutritionist and a certified strength and conditioning specialist. In particular, he follows advanced developments in the fields of endocrinology, orthopaedics, sports medicine and environmental chronic diseases.


  1. Leonard MM et al. “Celiac Disease and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity: A Review.” Journal of the American Medical Association, vol. 318, No. 7 (15 Aug 2017): 647-656
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