Question: What is the Difference Between Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance?
To realize the growing concern over gluten, all you need to do is head to the grocery store and see all the emerging gluten-free foods on the shelves. Some stores even have entire aisles or sections devoted to celiacs and their gluten-free needs. But many people don’t realize that you don’t have to suffer from full blown celiac disease to suffer the side effects of consuming gluten. So what’s the difference between celiac disease (CD) and gluten intolerance (sometimes referred to as gluten sensitivity)? In simplest terms, CD is an autoimmune condition, where the body starts attacking itself when gluten is consumed. As a result, celiacs are at great risk of malnutrition and nutrient deficiency because of a damaged GI tract that can’t properly absorb and utilize nutrients from food. Because it is an autoimmune condition, celiacs are at risk for other autoimmune conditions, such as thyroid disease, type I diabetes, joint diseases and liver diseases. Those suffering from gluten intolerance still need to remove gluten from their diet, but their symptoms, though similar, are not nearly as severe, are not permanent, nor do they cause damage to the GI tract. As a result, someone who is gluten intolerant will experience an allergic reaction of sorts to foods containing gluten, but those symptoms will not have a lasting impact on the body.
According to the American Celiac Disease Alliance:
- Signs and symptoms of [celiac] disease classically include diarrhea, short stature, iron-deficiency anemia and lactose intolerance. However, many patients will also present with "non-classical" symptoms, such as abdominal pain, "irritable bowel," and osteoporosis. ...while celiac disease, wheat allergy, and gluten-intolerance may be treated with similar diets, they are not the same conditions. It is very important for a person to know which condition [he or she has], as the person with celiac disease needs to monitor himself or herself for nutritional deficiencies, other autoimmune diseases, and GI cancers.