A post from a reader over on the About.com celiac disease forum got me to thinking about celiac disease symptoms - specifically, symptoms of major gluten exposure versus symptoms of trace gluten exposure.
The symptoms I get when I've had major gluten exposure seem particularly easy to spot, and relate strongly to what most people consider the most common celiac disease symptoms - terrible fatigue, gastrointestinal upset (from my esophagus all the way down), emotional upset, insomnia, joint pains, migraine and dermatitis herpetiformis. It can take up to a week for me to recover completely from a major gluten exposure.
But when I accidentally consume trace amounts of gluten, my symptoms become much more subtle and tricky to identify. I usually have some irritability, but I might sleep restlessly rather than lying awake with insomnia. The next day, I might suffer from a bit of gastrointestinal malfunction - but usually not much, and sometimes none at all. I also might have a touch of fatigue, but again, not much. I might get some visible dermatitis herpetiformis, but I might just feel itchy where the DH normally appears. The symptoms usually are gone within a day or so.
It took me a long time (and many known instances of exposure to trace gluten amounts) before I began to identify these symptoms with gluten. When I began testing foods for gluten with home gluten testing kits, the results validated what I already knew from my symptoms: many foods contain trace amounts of gluten. Studies such as this one that found gluten in supposedly gluten-free grains show how gluten contamination permeates our food supply, and this validated my knowledge further.
Since I've gotten even better at identifying and eliminating trace-gluten-contaminated foods, my overall health has improved dramatically and my symptoms when I do get glutened - while still apparent - seem to be slacking off in intensity.
In the comments, tell us about your glutening symptoms - how do they compare to what you experienced prior to going gluten-free?