Gluten Face. Do You Have It?

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Gluten face – deny it all you want, but there is such a thing. And, no I’m not going all “goop” on you; research shows that even if you are not afflicted with Celiac Disease (CD), that gluten can have an impact on your health, including that of your skin.

What is a Gluten Face?

Gluten is the protein found in many grains including wheat, rye and barley, which has binding properties that give baked goods their delicious chewiness. However, it’s something that many people can be quite sensitive to.

Individuals with CD can’t eat gluten without getting severely ill. However, it’s possible that you may be gluten sensitive or gluten intolerant, with more subtle consequences. A separate condition called Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) has recently been identified. Patients with NCGS test negative for the autoimmune condition of Celiac Disease, because they don’t have a classic response to wheat.  But people with NCGS experience all the same unpleasant symptoms, and respond favorably to a gluten-free diet. 

Without getting too technical, studies show that the protein gluten breaks into smaller proteins (gliadin for example), once it enters your digestive tract. Gliadin has been implicated with creating microscopic holes and getting into your bloodstream. Your body recognizes gliadin as a foreign invader and starts producing antibodies to fight against this attack wherever it has attached itself. Your immune system is just doing its job – thankfully. But, your body pays the price.

Gluten sensitivity can manifest itself in a number of ways:

  • Irritable bowel (including diarrhea, gas and constipation)
  • Brain fog.  Forgetting thoughts mid-sentence, difficulty finding words, poor concentration
  • Bad Moods. Gluten can impact your neurotransmitters leading to depression and anxiety amongst other mood disorders.

It has also been implicated with a range of other disorders including psoriatic arthritis, Lupus, Type 1 Diabetes, dermatitis, ataxia, schizophrenia, attention deficit, peripheral neuropathy, muscle pain, headaches, bipolar, fatigue, Hashimoto’s, elevated TPO antibodies, hypothyroidism and more.

You guessed it, gluten can also be bad for your face—and skin on other parts of your body too.

What is Gluten Skin?

When it comes to skin, a painful rash called dermatitis herpetiformis (DH)  is unique to CD, but individuals with CD or NCGS can encounter other common gluten face conditions, including:

  1. Psoriasis. It is one of the most prevalent autoimmune diseases in the United States as well as one of the most readily visible affecting 7.5 million people in the U.S. The red, silvery patches of scaly skin may be accompanied by dryness, cracking and bleeding. The National Psoriasis Foundation states that up to 25% of people who have psoriasis also may be sensitive to gluten.
  2. Eczema. An extremely common skin condition, eczema results in itchy, inflamed skin. Although gluten has been implicated with eczema, that’s not the case for everyone. Many sufferers have found that eliminating offending foods such as gluten and dairy, as well as other common allergens such soy, citrus, peanuts, fish, eggs, corn and tomatoes can make a real difference.
  3. Acne. It’s thought that the inflammatory response that begins in the gut’s reaction to gluten then spreads to other parts of the body, which in turn can result in acne. This kind of immune response also triggers the release of insulin, which results in raised hormone levels, another cause of acne. Not everyone who has acne is gluten sensitive and there is little published research showing a link but many acne sufferers have reported relief from ‘gluten face’ by going gluten-free.
  4. Dry Skin. Many people with CD and gluten sensitivity suffer from very dry skin, and in some cases this clears up after adopting a gluten-free diet. Although not clear what causes the dry skin, it’s been suggested that the malabsorption associated with untreated CD can rob your skin of needed nutrients.

How Long Does it Take For Gluten Face to Go Away?

If you suspect that your gluten face or any other symptom is a result of CD or NCGS, you should visit your doctor to get tested. Several blood tests are available that screen for CD antibodies, but you must be consuming gluten for the test to work. If test results are negative, you may have NCGS. As there are currently no tests available to screen for NCGS, you may be asked to try an elimination diet for several months to see if your symptoms improve upon removal of gluten from your diet.

Improvement won’t happen overnight and can take several weeks to months, depending on how sensitive you are and how strictly you follow a gluten free diet. While it’s highly unlikely for topically applied gluten to cause any issues if you have a gluten sensitivity—unless applied to broken skin—Apothekari offers a few gluten-free products including:

They are not certified gluten free.

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