Gluten free product demand is on the rise for individuals whose bodies can not tolerate or otherwise properly digest gluten; due to a growing amount of people with health conditions such as Celiac disease.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a natural protein that is most commonly found in wheat, barley, rye and certain oats. While gluten is mainly found in foods, it may also be found in every day products such as vitamins, lip balms and even medicines.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is a disease where a person’s small intestine is hypersensitive to gluten, which causes difficulties in digesting food and damage to its own tissue. The inflammation and damage to your inner lining of the small intestine is triggered by your own immune system. Your immune system senses gluten as a potential hazard to your body, thus attacking your villi. Villi are very tiny structures on your lining of the small intestine. They typically allow nutrients that you get from food to be absorbed through your small intestine’s wall straight into your bloodstream. When these protrusions (villi) are damaged, your body becomes malnourished, as it can’t absorb the nutrients. Unfortunately, research shows that your body is unable to ever fully recover from this damage. Left untreated, this disease may also increase your chances for certain types of cancer and ulcers.
Celiac Disease Symptoms
Many people who have Celiac disease experience very little to none symptoms associated with digestion. Half of people experience weight loss and only one third have diarrhea. One fifth of those with the disease experience constipation. Other symptoms include:
- Anemia (often a result of iron deficiency) Softening of bone or loss of bone density
- Fatigue and Joint Pain
- Acid Re-flux or Heartburn
- Nervous System Injury (can include tingling and numbness in fingers or feet)
Check NDDIC for full list of symptoms for adults and children.
Celiac Disease Diagnosis
Celiac disease can be diagnosed in one of the following methods:
HLA Typing may be used to detect certain antibodies in your blood which indicate an immune response to gluten.
Endoscopy and Capsule Endoscopy
If your blood tests indicate that you may have celiac disease, your doctor may order you an endoscopy to take a sample of your tissue and examine the damage to your villi.
Celiac Disease Treatment
Once diagnosed, the treatment to Celiac disease is quite “simple” – a lifelong diet that is gluten-free.
What is Gluten Intolerance?
Non-celiac gluten intolerance is an adverse reaction by your body to gluten, that has similar symptoms to Celiac disease but does not cause the same intestinal damage.
If I am Non-Celiac Gluten Intolerant, Will My Villi Still Get Damaged?
No. Gluten intolerance/sensitivty does not cause the same autoimmune reaction, which is responsible to villi damage for those with Celiac disease. However, there are other gastrointestinal symptoms, like diahrea, headaches and fatigue.
Gluten Sensitivity or Gluten Intolerance?
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is often an interchangeable term for gluten intolerance. Gluten sensitivity refers to cases which are less severe. Gluten intolerance on the other hand, usually refers to cases with greater severity and length of symptoms. Neither gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance is a disease.
Gluten Intolerance Symptoms
- Abdominal Pain
- Weight Gain
- Weight Loss
Gluten Intolerance Diagnosis
Currently there is no real way of diagnosing gluten intolerance as many gastrointestinal diseases are associated with the same symptoms as gluten intolerance and not many doctors are able to make the connection to it. The best way to diagnose if you have gluten intolerance is to eliminate it from your diet for 60 days and to see if you experience a difference. Then you can slowly re-introduce gluten back into your system and see if the symptoms re-appear.
Celiac Disease vs Gluten Intolerance
Here’s how Celiac disease compares to gluten intolerance.