Gluten is a protein in cereals such as wheat, barley, and rye. A person with gluten intolerance or sensitivity may experience pain and bloating after eating foods that contain gluten.

What is gluten intolerance?

a woman holding her stomach because she is feeling bloated because of gluten intolerance
A person with gluten intolerance may experience bloating, abdominal pain, and nausea.

Gluten intolerance can cause similar symptoms to celiac disease, but it is a different issue with different long-term effects.

The symptoms of gluten intolerance may also resemble those of a wheat allergy or intestinal conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Experts estimate that 10–15% of adults in the U.S. have IBS symptoms.

People with celiac disease must avoid gluten, as it can cause intestinal damage and prevent the body from absorbing essential nutrients.

Those with a wheat allergy must avoid all wheat products, as consuming any could be immediately life threatening.

Gluten intolerance can lead to discomfort, but it is unlikely to cause severe symptoms that require emergency care.

Scientists have found evidence that environmental factors can play a role in celiac disease.

However, experts are unsure of exactly what causes gluten intolerance and how it relates to similar illnesses. Some researchers have suggested that other ingredients in wheat, not gluten, may be causing some of these reactions.


An individual with gluten intolerance will develop symptoms after consuming foods containing wheat, barley, or rye.

The symptoms may include:

  • bloating
  • tiredness
  • abdominal pain
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • constipation
  • a general feeling of being unwell

The following may also occur:

  • anxiety
  • headaches
  • brain fog
  • confusion
  • numbness
  • joint or muscle pain
  • a skin rash

See a doctor about any of the above symptoms. A correct diagnosis is important — many conditions affecting the gut have similar symptoms.

Severe abdominal pain can be a symptom of a serious medical issue, and anyone who experiences it should receive immediate medical attention.



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