Do men really have gluten intolerance far less often than women, or do they just pay less attention to the symptoms? No one knows for sure, but it is true that two to three times more women than men are diagnosed with celiac disease.
“I don’t see any reason why there would be that much of a difference,” says Stephen Wangen, ND, founder of the Center for Food Allergies and author of Healthier Without Wheat. “I think gluten intolerance probably affects just as many men, but men either try to ignore their symptoms, grin and bear them, or don’t realize they’re brought on by something in their diet.”
For instance, Daniel Roberts, a 30-year-old customer service representative, had experienced symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) since grade school. Although he was diagnosed with a wheat allergy in high school, he didn’t strictly avoid gluten until his wife Jodi started cooking gluten-free meals three years ago. Since then, Daniel has noticed a tremendous improvement in his ADHD as well as his digestion and immunity.
Such positive responses to gluten-free diets are often strong indicators of gluten intolerance. There are no definitive tests for non-celiac gluten sensitivity, so if you experience symptoms, and blood tests for celiac disease are negative, it’s worth trying a gluten-free diet. If uncomfortable symptoms lessen or go away after you’ve been gluten-free for two to three months, there’s a good chance you have a gluten intolerance.
Cause for Concern
Celiac disease often goes undiagnosed for years, and it seems to hit men particularly hard. Research shows that men with celiac disease develop female-predominant diseases—such as iron-deficiency anemia and autoimmune diseases—at the same rate and with the same severity as women with celiac disease. Men also appear to have a greater degree of malabsorption of nutrients, manifested by worse bone density. And celiac disease may actually progress faster in men. These are all good reasons to pay attention early to symptoms that might be gluten related.
Women, you can help, too. If you think the man in your life has gluten intolerance and won’t admit it, persuade him to see a doctor. You also can try cooking gluten-free without even mentioning it, says Dr. Wangen. When women do this, men often reap the benefits.
Mexican Grass-Fed Beef Skillet*
Want to serve up a gluten-free treat for Father's Day? Try this easy-to-fix substantial dish. Make the meal colorful and complete by serving it with fresh fruit. We bet no one will even realize that they're eating gluten-free.
1 tsp. plus 2 Tbs. extra virgin coconut oil
1 lb. grass-fed ground beef
3—4 Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed (1¼ cups)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped (1¼ cups)
½ large red bell pepper, chopped (¾ cup)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small Serrano pepper, finely chopped
1 tsp. dried oregano leaves
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried parsley flakes
½ tsp. ground cumin
1 small Mexican grey squash or organic zucchini, finely cubed
Sea salt and pepper to taste
4 large eggs
4 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 small avocado, cut into slices
Gluten-free salsa, to taste
PER SERVING: 500 CAL; 32 G PROT; 33 G TOTAL FAT (16 G SAT FAT); 22 G CARB; 255 MG CHOL; 237 MG SOD; 5 G FIBER; 4 G SUGARS
*Adapted with permission from a family recipe for Mexican Beef Skillet by Mario Raso.