I have written a prior article on the differences between food allergies and food intolerances and would like to bring Celiac Disease into the conversation. Even though Celiac Disease symptoms seem common amongst Celiac Disease, gluten allergy, wheat allergy and gluten intolerance, these situations are NOT the same thing.
Celiac Disease Symptoms
Celiac Disease is actually an autoimmune condition in which gluten causes physical damage the surface of the intestinal tract. This makes it challenging for somebody with Celiac Disease to absorb nutrients from the food they're eating. Symptoms tend to be related to malabsorption/malnutrition, which can cause challenges when first diagnosing the disease. Gastrointestinal signs and symptoms could include things like diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal aches, flatulence and bloating. Not everybody has gastrointestinal symptoms. Some individuals have no noticeable outward symptoms and others suffer from much more obscure signs and symptoms such as general malaise, fatigue, weakness, depression and anxiety. Anybody with Celiac may have various vitamin deficiencies, and could be underweight or overweight. Testing for Celiac Disease includes a blood test as an initial screen followed by an upper endoscopy and intestinal biopsy to get confirmation. The only treatment for Celiac Disease is to entirely keep away from all gluten-containing foods.
Gluten and Wheat Allergies
Both gluten and wheat allergies make the body to over-react to something that is harmless for most people. This is an immune reaction on the cellular level where the body becomes sensitized to the offending food and then every time after that it touches that food, it wants to fight it off as though it were an enemy invader. Symptoms range from hives and skin rashes to nausea, vomiting and looseness of the bowels to a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction in which the person has difficulty breathing. The real difference between a gluten and wheat allergy is the person that has a gluten allergy should always avoid all gluten containing foods, including wheat, barley, rye and triticale. Oats should be avoided as well as they are usually cross-contaminated. A person with a wheat allergy must only avoid foods containing wheat.
A gluten or wheat intolerance is again different although one could claim that both Celiac Disease and gluten and wheat allergies are all extreme intolerances to gluten and/or wheat and I suppose this is technically accurate. Normally, however, whenever we refer to an intolerance or sensitivity we are referring to symptoms induced by a particular food that are not technically an allergy and do not fit into the category of any other disease process. Signs of a gluten or wheat intolerance may be as varied as the symptoms of Celiac Disease. Screening for a gluten or wheat intolerance generally involves an elimination diet where you take the potentially offending food from your diet and find out if you find an improvement in your symptoms. The most significant challenge for this is when there are a variety of food sensitivities. Your physician or naturopath could also perform a blood test that looks for IgG antibodies to ascertain whether or not you might be sensitive to a certain food.
Irrespective of whether you've Celiac Disease, a gluten allergy or a gluten intolerance, the most effective treatment is following a gluten-free diet. At first, this is often a challenge, however well worth the effort once you realize exactly how much better you will feel.