what the signs of gluten intolerance in women

Signs of Gluten Intolerance in Women

It seems gluten-intolerant is the latest dietary fad, and the number of new products catering to gluten intolerance grows every day. But what are truly the signs of gluten intolerance, particularly in women? The signs and symptoms are broad and often seem very general. Is gluten sensitivity a real thing? What does it mean to have an intolerance to gluten? And how might our bodies be responding to the prevalence of gluten in so many more products that in the past?

What is Gluten?

Put simply, gluten is a mix of two proteins found in wheat, rye and barley. Gluten gives food its elastic quality and acts as the ‘glue’ that holds food together. Most people who have gluten intolerance, or its more severe counterpart, celiac disease, never even know they have it. And most doctors do NOT know enough about nutrition to diagnose it. I personally went to doctors for 2 years before deciding, based on my own research, to quit gluten for once and for all. My symptoms included abdominal pain, endometriosis, mood swings, exhaustion and anxiety. I was told it was all in my head, and that going “gluten free” was not beneficial for anyone except a small minority of the population with diagnosable celiac disease. Well, the doctors were wrong.

Unfortunately, gluten intolerance cannot be diagnosed via a blood test or any other simple method. The best way to know if you have a gluten intolerance is to avoid gluten completely for a set period of time (about 2-3 weeks to start) and see if your symptoms improve.

What are the Signs of Gluten Intolerance?

There are numerous signs of gluten intolerance in women that should NOT be ignored.

  1. gas, bloating, indigestion and/or constipation
  2. lethargy, fatigue, brain fog
  3. dizziness
  4. female hormone problems including PCOS, endometriosis and severe PMS.
  5. fibromyalgia
  6. inflammation and pain in joints
  7. depression and other mood disorders

Some of these symptoms might seem vague or non-specific. This is why it is SO important, if you suspect a gluten intolerance or suffer from 2 or more of these symptoms, to go on an elimination diet.

For 2-3 weeks, avoid ALL gluten. This is hard, at least initially, because gluten has contaminated so many of our food products. You must read labels. Many products that are gluten-free will have a Gluten Free label on them; it is important, however, to confirm that the product was not made in a manufacturing facility with non-gluten free products, as you run the risk of cross-contamination.

Following is a partial list of foods you need to avoid:

  • bread (When I do find myself craving some bread, I usually choose Udi’s Granola Gluten Free Bread Loaf (8-pack) or I bake my own using a gluten-free flour alternative. I also like gluten-free wraps.
  • most breakfast cereals (my absolute favorite gluten-free and really, really healthy and delicious cereal alternative is Living Intentions Superfood Cereal but you can probably find it cheaper at your local health food store. For some reason, the price on Amazon is higher than it should be.)
  • pasta (there are tons of gluten-free options. I haven’t tried them all, but I like Tinkyada).
  • beer (look for gluten-free ciders as a tasty summer alternative if you’re craving beer).
  • commercial broth and bouillon, unless specifically labeled as gluten-free. I like Pacific’s Organic Gluten Free Chicken Stock.
  • bottled salad dressings (I use olive oil and balsamic vinegar instead)
  • anything containing wheat or wheat derivatives such as wheat germ
  • most seasoning packets (these often also contain MSG)
  • regular baking powder (instead, I use this brand)
  • udon noodles (I LOVE Lotus Foods Rice Ramen Noodles)
  • teriyaki sauce (try this gluten-free alternative)
  • malt vinegar
  • oats unless specified as gluten free, such as this one.
  • TVP (textured vegetable protein)
  • dextrin, modified food starch and other “thickeners”
  • puddings
  • non-dairy creamers
  • some mustard and ketchup brands (I like Trinity Hill Farms’ Ketchup)
  • french fries
  • imitation crab meat
  • hot dogs, cold cuts and sausage
  • soy sauce (I avoid soy, so I use this organic soy-free sauce)
  • Worcestershire sauce (try Biona–it’s great!)

Remember, this is just a sampling of the “greatest hits” of foods with gluten. Do your research and stick with it for 2-3 weeks and see if your energy, digestion and mood improve. It really is worth trying–if you turn out to be gluten sensitive, you’ll be amazed at how good you feel when you get rid of gluten from your diet!

It will probably take 3-12 months for your body to heal from its exposure to gluten, and if you “re-expose” yourself by accident, you will need to recover. But if you’re careful, you’ll find your life will change for the better-more energy, less bloating, better sleep and fewer mood swings!

Post Author: Hillary

26 thoughts on “Signs of Gluten Intolerance in Women

    Josephine Crawford

    (June 6, 2016 - 8:44 am)

    Hilliary, thanks for a rather informative site with information worth considering. You have now inspired to do some more studies on the gluten-free alternative way of eating. I know someone who has serious issues with eating gluten. I will send her your link.


      (June 17, 2016 - 3:41 am)

      Glad you found the post useful, Josephine!


    (June 6, 2016 - 2:29 pm)

    So many things out there that can cause problems- without us ever even knowing! Doctors oftentimes do not have the answers. I found that out like you did. I don’t think it would hurt anyone to give this a try if suffering from any of the symptoms you mention. Thanks again 🙂


    (June 6, 2016 - 3:05 pm)

    Wow, that’s a lot of food to avoid but thankfully, there are also gluten-free alternatives. It is an eye opener that most people who are gluten intolerance are not even aware of it. I wish there was a straightforward test to diagnose it.



    (June 6, 2016 - 3:06 pm)

    Great post Hillary, even though you have included a “partial list” I think it covers a lot, especially for those just starting to experiment without gluten.


    (June 6, 2016 - 4:23 pm)

    Hillary, all I can say is wow!! I suffer from 6 of the 7 signs of gluten intolerance! I am actually just learning about gluten myself because my children have health and allergy issues,and the subject has come up. Everything I learn keeps pointing to the need of a change in my diet. Thanks so much for this article. I shared it ton my Facebook!


      (June 6, 2016 - 8:39 pm)

      Please do try an elimination diet and see if you feel better.


    (June 6, 2016 - 6:46 pm)

    Hi Hilary interesting post, I’ve dealt with a lot of people with gluten allergies over the years and even to this day a lot of the information out there is incorrect. I’m glad to see some knowledgeable thoughts being posted finally.


      (June 6, 2016 - 8:39 pm)

      Glad you found it useful, Peter. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, and some of it is actually being spread by people who should know better!


    (June 6, 2016 - 10:33 pm)

    Thank you for a very informative post. I never knew that crab meat imitation and sausages are not gluten free. I think you are spot on by saying that many people do not know that they have a gluten intolerance. I personally think i do have it myself to a degree. A few weeks ago i went on a diet where i cut out gluten completely only for a week, but i saw the difference in how i feel. So i definitely need to explore more. Thanks for sharing this with me.


      (June 6, 2016 - 11:25 pm)

      There are definitely gluten-free sausages out there! Just look at the labels and ask–but crab meat…I am not sure about that one LOL. I definitely think it’s worth trying for ANYONE who has some of these symptoms. What have you got to lose? 🙂


    (June 6, 2016 - 10:39 pm)

    Hi, Hillary.
    Thank you for your sharing. So, if I understand correctly, women who have gluten-intolerant should not eat food that contains carbohydrate. I can see you list out some of the examples that they should avoid. So, in order to obtain enough nutrients, what kind of alternative food should they eat if they avoid gluten?


      (June 6, 2016 - 11:20 pm)

      No exactly, Antony. Women who are gluten intolerant CAN eat carbs. I eat some beans, potatoes, gluten-free pasta some quinoa, rice occasionally, gluten-free wraps and cereals that contain carbs. One just needs to avoid wheat and rye and its byproducts. Did you see the list of alternatives I gave below? There are many tasty (and carby!) options!


    (June 7, 2016 - 2:40 am)

    Thanks for this list Hillary! I’ve been meaning to give this a try. I’ve had a hard time in the past sticking to an elimination diet, but I know there is something in my diet that does not agree with me. I love that you gave some good alternative suggestions.


    (June 7, 2016 - 2:15 pm)

    Hi Hillary

    Very interesting read. It’s a hard lifestyle change but at least nowadays there are plenty of gluten-free alternatives. I can’t imagine what it must have been like a few years ago when the availability of gluten-free products was much more limited.


    (June 7, 2016 - 3:43 pm)

    I’ve been suspecting that I may be gluten-intolerant for a while now, so your post has really helped to clarify things, thank you! I like that you have provided specific alternatives to all the things that should be avoided. Nice to know that there are a lot of gluten-free products out there.


      (June 7, 2016 - 6:07 pm)

      It really isnt that hard once you get used to it–it becomes your ‘new normal’, if you know what i mean. And besides, i feel so much better i dont really care to eat gluten anymore!


    (June 7, 2016 - 4:38 pm)

    Hi, Hillary, and thanks for an informative post about gluten. I have problems with digesting gluten so I don’t eat it at all just now. I totally agree with about not eating any gluten for two or three weeks. I have done that many times myself and I know that it works.
    I thought that your list about how food to eat was really helpful. It’s better to have opinions from you than to need to look for right items.



      (June 7, 2016 - 6:05 pm)

      Glad the post was helpful Tove!


    (June 16, 2016 - 2:55 am)

    Many thanks Hillary for this very handy advice. I’m going to try 2 weeks of gluten free now. Fingers crossed! Your list is fantastic too – I had no idea there was gluten in mustard…amazing what’s hidden in processed foods. Thanks again. Alisa


      (June 16, 2016 - 3:10 am)

      Post back with how it goes for you!! Have fun!


    (June 16, 2016 - 7:45 pm)

    Oh my god, teriyaki sauce has gluten?! It really is in everything… I have tried going gluten-free before as an experiment, and even though I only stuck with it for a week I was AMAZED at how good I felt! Reading this gave me inspiration to try it again!


      (June 17, 2016 - 3:40 am)

      I know, right? When i first started i was like “ok, no bread, pasta or pizza. Got it!” Not quite LOL.


    (August 9, 2016 - 9:28 am)

    HI Hillary,

    My mom asked me to write you that she wants to thank you for this great article.

    A few weeks ago I encountered with this article, and because I know that my mom had a problem with her stomach, I showed her your article and she said she will try it.

    And, Tada the stomach hurts are gone.

    She tried everything, and also her doctor didn’t think she is suffering from gluten Intolerance.

    Thanks to you and your article she cured.

    From my mom and from me,

    Thank you.


      (August 9, 2016 - 12:35 pm)

      That’s a wonderful story! So glad to hear your mother is doing better!


    (November 2, 2016 - 9:01 am)

    Hi Hillary, thank you so much for your post. After reading it I am starting to question maybe I need to start on a gluten free diet. Although, looking at the list of foods to avoid has gotten me to think twice about it.I do suffer from really bad menstrual cramps. How long should I try to be off gluten to see if it is the culprit behind my cramps?

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