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    Celiac Disease vs. Gluten Sensitivity or Gluten Intolerance

    David Greenberg
    Celiac Disease vs. Gluten Sensitivity or Gluten Intolerance
    Caption: Photo: CC--Andy G

    Celiac.com 11/13/2012 - Going gluten-free seems to be the newest dietary trend that many people are following, even if it is not mandatory for one’s health. This trend was brought on by an increased number of cases of celiac disease, and gluten sensitivity, also referred to as gluten intolerance. Both diagnoses come with the recommendation of avoiding gluten-containing foods (wheat, rye, barley), however both are different in the way the body is affected.

    Photo: CC--Andy GCeliac disease, also known as gluten sensitive enteropathy, is an autoimmune disease that affects the small intestine causing it to become inflamed when gluten is digested. The immune system then generates an abnormal response to gluten and attacks its own intestinal tissue.  This leads to the wasting away of the villi that line the small intestine, malabsorption of nutrients and thus malnutrition. Symptoms may include anemia, osteopenia, lactase deficiency, diarrhea, constipation, delayed growth, and weight loss due to malabsorption of nutrients. Other symptoms that may present are arthritis, dermatitis, infertility, muscle weakness, and constant fatigue. A series of tests and evaluations are performed including an examination of one’s family history as genetic predisposition is common, blood tests, and the final confirmation of an intestinal biopsy. Once confirmed a strict adherence to a gluten free diet is necessary.

    Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is often interchanged with gluten intolerance. There are cases where symptoms are less severe, which may be considered gluten sensitivity, whereas severe cases would be labeled as gluten intolerance due to the intensity and length of time symptoms last. Gluten sensitivity differs from celiac disease in that the body views gluten as an invader causing a direct response in the form of inflammation inside and outside of the digestive tract, and with this disorder one's own tissue (lining of small intestine) is not attacked, as we see with celiac disease. Once gluten is removed from the body, the inflammation goes away unlike the symptoms associated with celiac disease. Symptoms include bloating, abdominal discomfort, and diarrhea due to the inflammation of the digestive tract. Headaches, lethargy, attention-deficit disorder, hyperactivity, muscle weakness/disturbances and joint pain may present as well. Tests performed for a diagnosis of celiac disease are usually done with the findings not showing the indicators necessary, leading to a trial gluten-free diet. With the diet, symptoms will disappear, and a diagnosis of gluten sensitivity will be given.

    Unfortunately celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are becoming increasingly prevalent. Thus it is important to know how each diagnosis affects the body, and the reasons for being put on a gluten free diet. With more research being done, there may soon be more answers as to why more cases continue to emerge.

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    Guest Shellnm

    Posted

    Great explanation, thank you! I do want to mention that my daughter tested NEGATIVE for celiac, but has many of the symptoms of the auto-immune response. I truly believe that even if one tests negative for celiac, you may still have wasting away of the villi. My daughter's symptoms confirm this, in my opinion. Also, DOES ANYONE KNOW OF A DOCTOR IN NEW MEXICO WHO ACTUALLY BELIEVES THAT CELIAC AND GLUTEN INTOLERANCE EXISTS?? At this time we have no support of any western medicine doctors. I'm even willing to take her to Phoenix or Denver if I can find someone who can help. I haven't been able to find a functional medicine doctor here either. Thanks for the feedback.

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    My son has not been growing. He was off the charts big as a toddler. By the 3rd grade he had fallen to the 60th percentile. Now in grade 7 he is in the 25th percentile for height. I am 5'10", my husband is 6'1". He was recently diagnosed with celiac disease. It's no surprise as several family members have it. He also has hypotyroidism so auto immune issues are present. We are eager to put him on a gluten free diet but are frustrated... His Dr. wants us to wait on further testing. Does if really matter if it's an intolerance or an allergy? The earliest appointment offered was September, 5 months away! Why wait if the outcome is going to be placing him on a gluten free diet anyway?

    If he's going to be tested for celiac disease he needs to be currently consuming gluten.

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    Guest Michael Traiger

    Posted

    Great explanation, thank you! I do want to mention that my daughter tested NEGATIVE for celiac, but has many of the symptoms of the auto-immune response. I truly believe that even if one tests negative for celiac, you may still have wasting away of the villi. My daughter's symptoms confirm this, in my opinion. Also, DOES ANYONE KNOW OF A DOCTOR IN NEW MEXICO WHO ACTUALLY BELIEVES THAT CELIAC AND GLUTEN INTOLERANCE EXISTS?? At this time we have no support of any western medicine doctors. I'm even willing to take her to Phoenix or Denver if I can find someone who can help. I haven't been able to find a functional medicine doctor here either. Thanks for the feedback.

    I would suggest that you do not waist time on doctors. Just go now on a strict gluten free diet including corn and oats along with the standards of wheat, rye and barley. In a month or less you should feel noticeably better. If so, continue the gluten free diet forever and kiss the doctors goodbye.

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    Guest celeste

    Posted

    Just starting to read all the info on 'gluten intolerance' which I THINK I may have... I'm going to try to eliminate the cereal I have every morning! Do the 'digestive enzymes' help when trying to figure it all out?

    They did not help me to digest gluten at all. Going gluten free was surprisingly easy for me! AND SO HELPFUL!

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    Guest Cookie

    Posted

    Thank you for this site. Since I am relatively new at this, help is needed. There are so many good articles and recipes that choosing what to peruse first is a little bit difficult, but doable.

    Yes, I too am new to all this. I had a meltdown at the grocery store because it was so overwhelming. Eat this, don't eat that, read labels, etc.! I'm sure I'll get used to it once I get super educated.

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  • About Me

    David Greenberg graduated from NYU with a degree in economics. He has since joined the Good Greens team and become passionate about healthy living and healthy eating. Good Greens is a gluten-free and vegan protein bar company. David partners with other health writers and professionals to share healthy insight around the web. His web site is: http://www.goodgreens.com/.

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