Gluten Intolerance and Celiac. What’s the Difference?

Over the past decade, more and more people are becoming aware of the complications that can arise from consuming gluten and we are learning that going gluten-free is more than just the latest fad.

And even though some may not entirely realize why they should be staying away from gluten, they are beginning to understand that some people are more sensitive to it than others. Some people appear outwardly to tolerate it just fine, while others become really ill.

There are two misconceptions when it comes to needing to be on a gluten-free diet. The first is that only people with celiac disease can’t have gluten and the other misconception is that everyone else that is gluten-free is only doing it because it is trendy.

The reality is that celiac disease is not the only reason many people avoid gluten. A much more common condition than celiac disease is gluten intolerance.

While everyone can benefit from avoiding or limiting gluten, as it can damage your gut and cause bloating, some people need to avoid it altogether to risk becoming ill.

If you feel sick after eating gluten, then there is a chance you are either gluten intolerant or have celiac disease.

Keep in mind that if you are having issues eating gluten, you should see your doctor and refrain from self-diagnosing.

What you’ll learn in this post…

  • What celiac disease is
  • How celiac is different than gluten intolerance
  • If a wheat allergy could be the culprit to your illness
  • When it is time to see a doctor

WHAT IS CELIAC DISEASE 

Celiac disease is a severe autoimmune disorder with no cure and is controlled through a strict gluten-free diet.

When someone with celiac eats gluten, their body sends out an automatic immune response that attacks their small intestines. The small intestines contain small fingerlike structures that help to absorb nutrients into the bloodstream, and when a person who has celiac eats gluten, their immune system can destroy these little structures, interfering with the body’s ability to absorb nutrients properly.

Celiac disease is a genetic disorder that can be triggered by the consumption of gluten. This is a genetic disorder than can develop at any age.

Currently, the only way to treat celiac disease is through a strict gluten-free diet, avoiding even the smallest amount. If left untreated, more issues can occur, such as type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, skin rash, anemia, osteoporosis, intestinal cancer, epilepsy, and migraines [1].

If you think you may have celiac disease, see a healthcare professional before self-diagnosing.

WHAT IS GLUTEN INTOLERANCE

Gluten intolerance, or more commonly known as gluten sensitivity, is different than celiac disease although they do share many of the same symptoms, such as bloating, constipation, headaches, joint pain, and diarrhea.

This condition is less understood than celiac disease, often leading many people to self-diagnose and misdiagnose themselves. Because there is so much of this that goes around, it makes many people question whether or not this is a real condition or something people think they have because gluten-free has become the newest “thing.” Much of the misdiagnosis occurs when someone associates their ailments with gluten when there are many different things that could be the real culprit. This does an injustice to those who suffer from gluten intolerance, making it harder for them to reach out for help.

If you think you have a gluten intolerance, it is important to see a professional so you can ensure that there is not another underlying issue that you could be missing (2).

WHAT IS A GLUTEN ALLERGY

If you are having issues eating gluten, there could be a third culprit, and that is a gluten or wheat allergy. This is actually one of the to allergies in the US and so is not uncommon. This is also why so many people have such trouble eating foods that contain gluten (3).  

If you have a gluten or wheat allergy, you may be experiencing some of the symptoms associated with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, but the culprit could be an allergic reaction. People with a gluten allergy may experience nausea, diarrhea, hives or rash, and difficulty in breathing.

If you are allergic to gluten, you will want to follow a similar strict gluten-free diet as those that have celiac disease. If you believe that you could be allergic to gluten, your doctor can perform an allergy test to confirm or dismiss your suspicions.

WHEN SHOULD YOU SEE A DOCTOR?

Almost everyone reacts to gluten negatively, whether they realize it or not as your body tries to process it. Therefore you should limit the intake of gluten in your diet. However, if you think you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, or notice a correlation between consuming products with gluten and illness or discomfort, see your doctor.

It is important to not self-diagnose yourself, something that many people try to do. You could be overlooking an entirely separate issue and it may be something else that is making you ill. In this case, it is important to know which foods you should be avoided other than gluten. If you do have celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or a gluten allergy, you should know the severity so that you can take precautions. People with severe reactions may become ill with the slightest contamination.

HOW TO CONTROL YOUR GLUTEN INTAKE

If you fall into any of the categories above, then removing gluten from your diet can relieve many of your symptoms and once you do, your body and gut can start to heal themselves.

And, if you don’t fall into one of the above categories, limiting your gluten intake, or removing it from your diet, can still help your feel better overall. It can help you have a clearer mind, healthier gut and give you more energy overall.

Controlling your gluten intake is easy if you are eating a diet of whole foods. In this case, almost all of your food with be naturally gluten-free. This is where getting on a Custom Meal Plan can really help, as all of our meals are gluten-free. Of course, this doesn’t account for any contamination that may occur, and this is something that you will have to regulate if needed.

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