The difference between celiac disease and gluten intolerance
Have you ever had unpleasant symptoms or felt bloated after eating gluten-rich foods like bread, muesli or pasta, and wondered if you have gluten intolerance or possibly even celiac disease? Although these two conditions share similar symptoms, there are distinct differences in how they work. Over the past few years, a gluten-free diet has gained popularity. However, many people have no clear idea of the difference between celiac disease and gluten intolerance and why some people need to live gluten-free.
But what exactly is gluten? Gluten is a sort of protein that can found in specific grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten is important in binding grain-based ingredients in recipes. It also gives bread its fluffy texture.
What is celiac disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the digestive system. When a person with celiac disease eats food containing gluten, an immune response is triggered in the small intestine (NHS, 2022). Over time, this reaction damages the small intestine.
Symptoms of celiac disease
The autoimmune response related to celiac disease damages the small intestine’s capability of absorbing and processing nutrients from food. This damage can cause malnutrition and a range of other physical symptoms, including brain fog, tingling in the hands or feet, chronic fatigue, bone or joint pain, and changes in mood. Further symptoms are:
- Weight loss
- Bloating and gas
- Abdominal pain
Source: NHS, 2022
What is gluten intolerance?
Gluten intolerance is also known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and causes similar symptoms to celiac disease despite not being an autoimmune condition (Cleveland Clinic, 2021). When a person with celiac disease eats products that contain gluten, their immune system attacks their intestines, causing damage to body tissues that cause unpleasant symptoms . Someone that is gluten intolerant, on the other hand, may experience bloating, nausea, stomach pain, and diarrhea without any autoimmune reaction or lasting damage to the intestine occurring. Therefore gluten intolerance does not cause long-term harm to the body, unlike celiac disease.
Symptoms of gluten intolerance
Similar to someone suffering from celiac disease, typical symptoms of gluten intolerance are:
- Stomach ache
Source: Cleveland Clinic, 2021
If you experience any of these symptoms after eating products containing gluten, there might be a chance that you are gluten intolerant. Individuals suffering from gluten intolerance may find comfort by using digestive enzymes, lowering the amount of gluten in their diet, or completely removing gluten from their diet.
How to check for celiac disease
It’s important to check yourself for celiac disease if you’re having unpleasant symptoms after eating gluten-containing foods. You can find out if you have celiac disease by seeing your doctor or completing our at-home Homed-IQ Celiac Disease Test.
Is gluten intolerance the same as gluten sensitivity?
The terms gluten intolerance and gluten sensitivity are frequently used interchangeably. While neither term is completely defined in the medical world, many people believe gluten sensitivity is a less severe variant of gluten intolerance. Gluten sensitivity, for example, might be determined if someone has modest symptoms prompted by gluten ingestion that go away quickly. Someone who has significant symptoms that linger for a long time, on the other hand, is likely to be diagnosed with gluten intolerance.
The difference between gluten intolerance and celiac disease
The main difference between gluten intolerance and celiac disease is the long-term damage that celiac disease can cause to the body. While sharing almost the same symptoms following eating food that contains gluten, gluten sensitivity and gluten intolerance do not cause damage to the intestines, unlike celiac disease (Cleveland Clinic, 2022).
Is it possible to be gluten intolerant and not have celiac disease?
Yes, many people with symptoms that are similar to celiac disease test negative for celiac disease. In this case, a gluten-free diet can help them feel better and minimize discomfort. These people most likely have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
I have celiac disease- what should I do?
People that have celiac disease should adhere to a lifelong gluten-free diet. Learning to recognize products that contain gluten is the first step in this lifestyle change. The next step is to slowly introduce gluten-free foods into your diet. The easiest method to tell if anything is gluten-free is to look for the “gluten-free” label on the package. Another technique to detect gluten-containing items is to look at the allergen warning on the food label; if it mentions wheat, the product is likely to contain gluten as well. However, there are gluten-containing components that do not contain wheat, so be cautious when purchasing goods that aren’t labeled “gluten-free.”
Checking for celiac disease is one of the first steps in understanding why you may experience adverse reactions to gluten. Click here to learn more about Homed-IQ’s Celiac Disease Test.
Celiac Disease vs. Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity vs. Food Allergy. (2022, August 31). Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/gluten-sensitivity-celiac-disease-wheat-allergy-differences/
Gluten Intolerance: Symptoms, Test, Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity. (2021, June 30). Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/21622-gluten-intolerance
NHS website. (2022, May 19). Coeliac disease. nhs.uk. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coeliac-disease/