Excluding gluten from your diet or following a gluten-free diet has become increasingly popular in recent years with the most recent estimates suggesting that around 3.1 million people in the United States have gone gluten-free. The same study also found that most of these people don’t have celiac disease and are simply choosing to avoid gluten, possibly due to gluten intolerance. But, what’s the difference between celiac disease and gluten intolerance?
Although both are a result of a negative reaction to gluten, there are distinct differences - particularly in their severity. While celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that damages the lining of the small intestine , gluten intolerance refers to difficulty in digesting foods that contain gluten but no damage is caused to the tissues of the small intestine . So if you are experiencing unpleasant symptoms after your Friday night pizza, here’s what to know.
See also: What Causes Celiac Disease?
The difference between celiac disease and gluten intolerance
Celiac disease is an immune reaction to gluten; a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. When gluten is consumed, it triggers a reaction in the immune system that damages the lining of the small intestine - over time, this can prevent the body's ability to absorb nutrients from food. Although the precise cause isn’t known, there are certain factors that can increase your risk of celiac disease, including family history, having type 1 diabetes, or having thyroid disease.
Common indicators of celiac disease include:
- Weight loss
- Bloating and gas
- Abdominal pain
It’s important to note that these symptoms can vary from person to person and if you suspect that you may have celiac disease, one of the most reliable ways to find out more is through a test; either from home or with your doctor.
See also: Celiac Disease Diet: What You Can Eat
Gluten intolerance is essentially an intolerance to gluten. This means, when a person who is gluten intolerant ingests gluten, they will experience short-term bloating and belly pain. Unlike celiac disease - it’s uncommon for this to cause long-term harm to the body . According to the NHS, the number of people who believe they have a food intolerance has risen significantly over recent years so it can be difficult to know how common it is.
Common indicators of gluten intolerance include:
- Stomach pain
- Wind and/or diarrhoea
These symptoms typically occur a few hours after consuming gluten. If you suspect that you may be gluten intolerant, try eliminating gluten from your diet, this will involve cutting out foods containing gluten and monitoring how this affects your symptoms.
See also: What Causes a Change In Bowel Movements?
Can you be gluten intolerant and not have celiac disease?
Research shows that many people who have symptoms similar to celiac disease test negative for celiac disease however a gluten-free diet can positively benefit them and reduce discomfort. It’s suggested that these people have non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
What’s important to note is that many people presume that they have gluten sensitivity as they experience discomfort after eating wheat, however, at times this may be a sign that you have a food allergy or wheat allergy and are intolerant to something in wheat. If this is the case for you, try a wheat-free diet and cut out bread.
How do I know if I have celiac disease?
Statistics suggest that around 2 million people in the United States alone have Celiac disease and according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), many people who have it, have not yet been diagnosed. Although the exact cause is unknown, studies show that the condition is more likely to occur in those who have a family history of the condition.
If you are experiencing symptoms of celiac disease such as fatigue, diarrhea, and abdominal pain or if you have any of the common risk factors like family history, type 1 diabetes, or thyroid disorder, the most reliable way to find out if you have celiac disease is through a test. You can do this with your doctor or from home with LetsGetChecked's at-home Celiac test.
It's important to note that while there is no cure to celiac disease, following a strict gluten-free diet can typically be very effective in managing gastrointestinal symptoms and reducing any potential damage.
If you’re experiencing unpleasant symptoms after eating products that contain gluten - it’s important to know more. You can do this by taking a trip to your doctor or by taking an at-home Celiac test.
LetsGetChecked’s at-home Celiac Test will be able to identify celiac disease antibodies. Your online results will be available within 5 days and our dedicated medical team will be on hand to answer any questions you may have. The test must be taken following six weeks of a gluten-containing diet to ensure accurate results.