Gluten and Dry Skin

by Chris Dinesen Rogers

People who are gluten intolerant may experience a diverse collection of symptoms. The reason behind this lies in the condition's effects on the small intestine. This organ is the primary site of absorption of most of the nutrients you get from the foods you eat. Damage to the small intestine will impair your body's ability to absorb vitamins and minerals. The result is symptoms such as dry skin that are caused by dietary deficiencies.

Small Intestine Damage

The environment of the small intestine provides the ideal setting for nutrient absorption. Projections into the cavity called villi increase the surface area within the small intestine, maximizing the absorption of nutrients. Nutrients absorbed by the small intestine travel to the liver for distribution in the body. When a person with celiac disease consumes gluten, it initiates an autoimmune response that ultimately damages these villi.

Malabsorption of Nutrients

The malabsorption of nutrients necessary for healthy skin can be the cause of your dry skin. The body requires vitamin C to form collagen, a type of protein necessary for skin development. Skin health may deteriorate with deficiencies in other nutrients such as niacin, iron and vitamin K. Protein deficiencies may also result in dry skin. The malabsorption of vitamin C and the B-complex vitamins will occur rapidly because the body does not store great quantities of these water-soluble vitamins.

Dermatitis Herpetiformis

Celiac disease can also cause a type of skin disorder called dermatitis derpetiformis. This condition is characterized by itchy skin. The intense itchiness may increase your risk of secondary bacterial infections from scratching. The Celiac Disease Foundation estimates that up to 85 percent of patients with this particular condition are gluten intolerant. Treatment with an antibiotic called Dapsone can help some find relief from their symptoms. Ultimately, however, management of your gluten intolerance is imperative.

Treatment and Prevention

To prevent intestinal damage and malabsorption of nutrients, eliminate gluten from your diet. There is not cure other than abstinence for this condition. Even small amounts of gluten in your diet can set the stage for skin problems. A study by the University of Maryland School for Medicine, published in the January 2007 issue of "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” identified 50 mg of gluten per day as the threshold for optimal control of celiac disease symptoms. This means choosing foods that are labeled gluten free, so become familiar with the hidden sources of gluten found in common food additives such as flavorings or stabilizers. Consult your physician if you need help making healthy food choices.

Photo Credits:

  • Hemera Technologies/ Images

This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or