Issues with Gluten Intolerance May Emerge at Menopause

Patient Expert

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I put myself on a 21-day clean eating program. Afterwards, I slowly started reintroducing foods such as dairy, pasta, bread and meat and gauged my body’s reaction to them. One night, I was surprised to find that I felt like I had a blob sitting in my stomach for a long period of time after I ate whole wheat pasta for dinner. I hadn’t experienced that with other foods (even a big bowl of beans).

That led to an “a-ha” moment when I was reading Dr. Christiane Northrup’s book, The Secret Pleasures of Menopause. She mentioned that women may become gluten intolerant after going through the menopausal transition.  I did a little more research and found that the University of Chicago’s Celiac Disease Center also suggests that menopause may trigger celiac disease, which often starts because of stress to the immune system when gluten is in the digestive system.  Another interesting finding from  my research – women who have celiac disease are more likely to go through early menopause.

So what exactly is gluten? According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, gluten is the term for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale. These proteins help the food maintain its shape. This video provides a good overview of gluten:

Wheat is commonly found in breads, pasta, baked goods, soups, cereals, sauces and salad dressings. Barley can be found in soups, beer, malt vinegar, food coloring and malt. Rye is often found in rye bread, cereals and rye beer. Triticale is a newer grain that has a similar quality to wheat and is grown in a variety of growing conditions. You may see this grain in breads, pasta and cereals.

Dietary Changes

While I haven’t totally embraced a gluten-free diet, I find that the 21-day eating plan -- which focused on fruits, vegetables, fish, legumes, nuts, eggs, seeds and soy products – gave me a great head start in not feeling as lost about what I can easily eat. In addition, I plan to explore other grains and starch-containing foods that are naturally gluten free. These include rice, corn, soy, potato, tapioca, beans, quinoa, sorghum, millet, buckwheat groats, amaranth, flax, teff, rice, chia and yucca.

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Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

Andrews, J.M. (2014). Menopause & Gluten.

Celiac Disease Foundation. (ND). What Is Gluten?

Northrup, C. (2008). The Secret Pleasures of Menopause.

University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center. (ND). Can Menopause Trigger Celiac Disease?