Navigating the Holidays with a Suspected Gluten Intolerance: 14 Common Symptoms and 3 Things You Can Do
In this story Dr Chad Larson is discussing tips for navigating the holiday season with a suspected gluten intolerance. The foods we eat during the holidays are often not the same (or as healthy) as what we eat the rest of the year and that can be tricky for those who either suffer from a gluten sensitivity or those who are not feeling well after partaking in holiday feasts and suspect they may be experiencing a reaction to gluten.
Written by Dr. Chad Larson, NMD, DC, CCN, CSCS, Advisor and Consultant on Clinical Consulting Team for Cyrex Laboratories.
The season of feasting is upon us. The majority of us fall victim to the ritualistic pattern of (delicious) consumption followed by the inevitable regret of stuffing ourselves to discomfort as we binge on larger-than-average amounts of rich foods, sugar and festive alcoholic concoctions. It can be extremely difficult to pass up the treats and customary holiday cuisine we look forward to each year. In fact, it’s easy to over-indulge in it all, leading us to feeling full, tired and sluggish. For those who have sensitivities or intolerance to certain foods, the temptation can be equally enticing despite an even more consequential aftermath of indulgence.
Popular holiday-season edibles are seemingly earmarked with the makings of gluten: pumpkin bread, stuffing, gravy, gingerbread cookies, fudge, pecan pie, matzah dishes, rugelach and more. Those who suspect they may have gluten intolerance should be cautious. While celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) can cause similar symptoms, they have different implications for your health. Failure to treat either can lead to more severe health problems or additional autoimmune reactions. You could be gluten reactive if you experience any of the following common symptoms:
- Fatigue/mental fatigue
- Gas, bloating, and abdominal pain
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Depression or anxiety
- Joint pain
- Canker sores inside the mouth
- Infertility or frequent miscarriages
- Missed menstrual periods
- Tingling in the hands and feet
- Weight loss
There is growing concern about gluten-related disorders. There are far more cases of some form of gluten sensitivity being reported now than previously suspected and a vast majority of people afflicted are completely unaware they have a health issue that is causing them to feel unwell. Research conducted by the University of Maryland’s Center for Celiac Research in conjunction with the Celiac Disease Center indicates that between five and 10 percent of all people may suffer from some form of gluten sensitivity.
Furthermore, only one in 4,700 who suffer from celiac disease have actually been diagnosed, which does not account for undiagnosed cases of NCGS.
So if you suspect gluten sensitivity, where do you go from here? Here are some tips to help you further determine if you are sensitive to gluten (or any other food for that matter) and to feel better while feasting though the holiday season:
- Keep a food journal – Simply log what you eat for each meal and make a note of how you feel afterward. If you have symptoms such as bloating, nausea, intestinal pain or discomfort, irregular bowel movements, constipation or other symptoms, log them in the journal, including the time in which they occur. This will help you to identify cause-and-effect patterns. You can also show this to your physician or a nutritionist who may better identify relationships between foods and symptoms.
- Eliminate the suspected aggravator from your diet altogether – This is a great recommendation to keep you feeling your best throughout the holiday season. Try making gluten-free versions of your favorite holiday recipes and evaluate if you feel better overall. This will allow you to still partake in traditional treats, but pinpointing the issue is still critical to long-term health and preventing further complications.
- Testing for food sensitivities – Proactive testing for underlying symptoms that may or may not have yet presented themselves is highly recommended. Cyrex Laboratories, a clinical laboratory specializing in functional immunology and autoimmunity, offers the Array 3 – Wheat/Gluten Proteome Reactivity & Autoimmunity test. For those who suspect intolerance to food but cannot pinpoint it, the Array 10 – Multiple Food Immune Reactivity Screen might be your answer.
It is important to be cognizant of any food intolerance or sensitivities you may have. Testing can help get you one step closer to treating what ails you. As always, you should consult with your primary care physician. Happy, healthy holidays!
Dr. Chad Larson, NMD, DC, CCN, CSCS, Advisor and Consultant on Clinical Consulting Team for Cyrex Laboratories. Dr. Larson holds a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Southern California University of Health Sciences. He is a Certified Clinical Nutritionist and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He particularly pursues advanced developments in the fields of endocrinology, orthopedics, sports medicine, and environmentally-induced chronic disease.