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Gluten & Stomach Pains

By Dana Severson ; Updated August 14, 2017

Suffering stomach pains after eating foods containing gluten can be the result of a number of things. Sometimes, it’s an indication of gluten intolerance. Other times, these foods can trigger symptoms of digestive conditions, but this is more so related to other substances in the meal. It may even be a side effect of introducing foods not part of your normal diet. Proper diagnosis is essential to alleviating symptoms, so talk to your doctor.

Gluten Intolerance

Gluten intolerance is an inability for the body to digest gluten. Any time someone with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity eats foods with this protein found in most grains, an immune response is triggered. The body begins to recognize gluten as an antigen, causing the release of antibodies to protect the body from the substance. As a result, you begin to experience symptoms, including stomach pains. In this situation, you need to cut all foods containing gluten from your diet. No medication is available to counteract this reaction.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Foods containing gluten, such as wheat, barley, bulgur, rye and spelt, to name a few, also tend to contain fiber, so you may be mistaking a gluten intolerance with another condition. In irritable bowel syndrome, dietary fiber often improves symptoms, but not when it comes to pain, explains the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. In fact, the fiber can increase the amount of intestinal gas, potentially worsening abdominal cramping and discomfort associated with IBS. It may also lead to bouts of diarrhea. In this situation, gradually introduce foods containing fiber back into your diet to avoid symptoms.

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Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Following along the same line as IBS, inflammatory bowel disease can also lead to problems with foods high in fiber. Inflammatory bowel disease is a grouping of disorders marked with some level of inflammation within the colon. Any time you eat foods high in fiber, this macronutrient can increase intestinal gas and trigger abdominal pain. Again, you may be mistaking the stomach pains as a result of gluten. Instead, it could be the fiber. As with IBS, add fiber back into the diet slowly. Gluten intolerance is often overlooked in place of IBS and inflammatory bowel disease.

Gas

Gas is a common symptom of celiac disease and gluten intolerance, according to MedlinePlus.com. However, gas can be caused by a host of other issues as well. High-fiber foods, particularly when not part of your normal diet, can lead to gas, bloating and abdominal pain all on its own. This is largely due to the digestive process of fiber, which moves through the majority of your gastrointestinal tract intact. Once it reaches the large intestine, bacteria help break down the fiber, releasing gases that contribute to the feeling of stomach discomfort. You may not have any condition associated with gluten -- or fiber, for that matter.

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