Celiac Disease vs. Gluten Intolerance
Are you ever concerned about whether you may have a gluten intolerance or celiac disease? If so, it is important to note that there are significant differences between the two - both in terms of medical diagnosis and dietary implications. Knowing these distinctions can help inform decisions on dietary changes as well as additional testing one may need to pursue if they have concerns around their digestive health.
What is Celiac Disease?>
Celiac disease is an auto-immune disorder that results in a sensitivity to gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains. It can cause damage to the small intestine and lead to digestive problems, fatigue, muscle cramps, malnutrition, skin rashes, and more.
There is no known cure for celiac disease - the only way to manage it is through a strict gluten-free diet. People diagnosed with celiac disease must avoid consuming products containing gluten, such as breads, pastas, cereals, and certain other food products as well as beer and certain medications.
Symptoms of Celiac Disease
Celiac disease symptoms vary from person to person but can range from mild to severe.
Common celiac disease signs and symptoms include:
- Feeling bloated
- Abdominal pain
- Chronic fatigue
- Recurring headaches
- Depression or anxiety
- Unexplained weight loss
- Joint and muscle pain
- Iron-deficiency anemia (not enough healthy red blood cells in the body caused by low iron levels)
- Osteoporosis due to calcium malabsorption
- Skin rash called Dermatitis Herpetiformis
If celiac disease is not detected and managed properly it may lead to intestinal damage or other serious health problems such as infertility or even cancer.
How to Diagnose Celiac Disease
The best way to diagnose celiac disease is to start with a blood test, which looks for certain antibodies associated with celiac disease. If this test returns positive or inconclusive results, a biopsy of the small intestine should be done to confirm celiac disease. This procedure can be done either through an endoscopy or a capsule endoscopy. The tissue from the biopsy is sent out for microscopic examination, and if celiac-related damage is seen on the intestinal lining, then a diagnosis of celiac disease can be made.
What is Gluten Intolerance?
Gluten intolerance is a condition in which gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains, triggers an immune response that leads to adverse digestive symptoms. This condition is sometimes referred to as gluten sensitivity or non-celiac gluten intolerance.
A gluten-intolerant person should eliminate gluten from their diet and replace it with gluten-free alternatives. Once gluten is avoided, the patient typically experiences significant symptom relief as their health improves.
Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance
Those with gluten intolerance may experience a variety of signs and symptoms.
Common symptoms of gluten intolerance include:
- Abdominal pain
- Joint and muscle pain
In some cases, gluten intolerance might cause nausea, vomiting, or weight loss if gluten is ingested in large quantities.
How to Diagnose a Gluten Intolerance
Diagnosing gluten intolerance is quite straightforward. To properly diagnose gluten intolerance, a doctor can rule out any other conditions first, then consider conducting medical tests such as gluten sensitivity testing or an endoscopy. A patient’s medical history and symptoms should also be taken into account when making a diagnosis.
If other methods of diagnosing gluten intolerance have failed to identify the problem, a gluten challenge may be recommended to accurately assess gluten-related symptoms. Once the diagnosis is made, dietary modifications and avoiding foods that contain gluten should help alleviate any symptoms over time.
What's the Difference Between Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance?
Celiac disease and gluten intolerance are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where someone’s body will react to gluten by damaging their intestines and interfering with how their body absorbs nutrients.
On the other hand, gluten intolerance is a condition whereby someone experiences unpleasant physical symptoms when they consume gluten, but those symptoms do not lead to long-term damage to the individual.
One key way how to know if you have celiac disease is that it can be tested for, whereas there isn't currently a blood test available for gluten intolerance.
Switching to a Gluten Free Diet
Whether you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, it's important to start a gluten free diet as soon as possible. Before you begin, it’s beneficial to do research on which foods are safe to eat and how to source key nutrients that may be missing in your diet.
Some foods you should make sure to avoid include:
- Cake Mixes
- Flour tortillas
- Soy sauce
Beyond these obvious foods to avoid on a gluten free diet there may be others that contain trace amounts of gluten so it’s important to read labels carefully and research the products available in your area before buying them.
Allied Digestive is Here For You
If you are experiencing symptoms of gluten sensitivity, please don't ignore them. Reaching out to a medical professional and getting tested for celiac disease or a gluten intolerance is important for determining the best course of action. It could help prevent long-term damage and give you clarity on your individual situation.
At Allied Digestive, we understand -our team of experts can run tests and discuss treatment options with you. We are committed to helping you be at your best. So if you're having reactions to gluten in your diet, contact Allied Digestive today and take the first step towards feeling better.