Symptoms of Gluten Sensitivity

With gluten sensitivity, your symptoms will be caused by eating gluten, but you won’t have the same intestinal damage found in celiac disease. It’s referred to as non-celiac gluten sensitivity to differentiate it from celiac disease, although the symptoms of both conditions can be similar. Your symptoms might happen right after eating gluten or up to a day later.

Having one or more of the following symptoms could indicate that you have a gluten sensitivity.

surprising gluten allergy symptoms
​Illustration by Emily Roberts, Verywell

Gastrointestinal problems

Digestive issues are the most common symptoms you may experience as a result of gluten sensitivity. These symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Gastroesophageal reflux

In one study of 38 Italian medical centers, the most frequent symptoms of gluten sensitivity were bloating, with 87 percent of cases, and abdominal pain in 83 percent of cases. More than half had diarrhea, and 24 percent had constipation. About 44 percent of the cases also had irritable bowel syndrome, which is frequently associated with gluten sensitivity.

Headache

Most people get headaches every now and then. But you may be especially prone to them if you have a gluten sensitivity. A study in the journal Headache found that about 56 percent of those with gluten sensitivity had chronic headaches.

Foggy Brain

Having a foggy brain means you have difficulty concentrating or experience short-term memory lapses. You also may find yourself losing your train of thought in conversations or when writing. You also might sometimes become confused or disoriented.

Brain fog is a frequently mentioned symptom in gluten sensitivity. In the Italian medical center study, about 38 percent of those with gluten sensitivity reported having a “foggy mind." There are other possible causes of brain fog, including fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. But if you have some of the other symptoms discussed here, it may be a sign of a gluten sensitivity.

Pins and Needles

It’s common to have your foot or hand fall asleep occasionally, especially when you put pressure on it for a while. If you have gluten sensitivity, you may experience this pins-and-needles sensation without putting pressure on the affected body part. This may be caused by peripheral neuropathy, which is damage to the nerves in the extremities. The study in Italy showed that 32 percent of those with gluten sensitivities reported having leg or arm numbness as a symptom.

Fatigue

If you have a gluten sensitivity, you may feel tired a lot or just not feel well in general. Patients in the study in Italy reported that those systemic symptoms were the most common after digestive issues, with 64 percent saying they experienced fatigue while 68 percent cited a lack of well-being.

Joint pain

Chronic joint and muscle pain, resembling the kind from fibromyalgia, is common with gluten sensitivity. About 31 percent in the Italian study reported joint pain as a symptom. It’s thought that the inflammation caused by gluten is what leads to the joint pain.

A Word From Verywell

Because these symptoms can be caused by other conditions, check with your doctor for a diagnosis. This is particularly important if you have several of these symptoms or if any persist. A gluten sensitivity may be determined once other conditions, like celiac disease, have been ruled out.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Sapone A, Bai JC, Ciacci C, et al. Spectrum of gluten-related disorders: consensus on new nomenclature and classification. BMC Med. 2012;10:13. doi: 10.1186/1741-7015-10-13

  2. Volta U, Bardella MT, Calabrò A, Troncone R, Corazza GR. An Italian prospective multicenter survey on patients suspected of having non-celiac gluten sensitivity. BMC Med. 2014;12:85.doi:10.1186/1741-7015-12-85

  3. Dimitrova AK, Ungaro RC, Lebwohl B, et al. Prevalence of migraine in patients with celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease. Headache. 2013;53(2):344-55. doi:10.1111/j.1526-4610.2012.02260.x

  4. Arthritis Foundation. The Connection Between Gluten and Arthritis.