With the continued rise of gluten allergies in society, it’s often hard to tell the difference between what is considered celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. The two conditions do in fact have many similar symptoms like gas and bloating, but internally affect the body in different ways.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease, where the absorptive surface of the small intestine become damaged, as the body attempts to digest gluten molecules. Gluten sensitivity not caused by celiac disease should be referred to non-celiac gluten sensitivity. More research is being completed to discover exactly what causes non-celiac gluten sensitivity. What is known, is that consuming gluten when someone has a non-celiac gluten sensitivity aggravates the digestive system.
Gluten sensitivity as defined by the Research Institute for Gastroenterology and Liver Diseases, as a non-allergic and non-autoimmune condition in which the consumption of gluten can lead to symptoms similar to those seen in celiac disease
It is estimated that about one percent of the population has celiac disease (about 1 in 133) and six to ten percent are affected by non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Sometimes diagnosis of gluten related sensitivities can be difficult based solely on visible physical symptoms. Symptoms are not always an indicator of exactly what is going on.
“Although the outward symptoms may look the same, the intestinal damage that is occurring to someone with Celiac Disease has the potential to do a lot more damage in the long run than sensitivity,” says Rich Ralph, Registered Holistic Nutritionist based in Vancouver. “85% of people with Celiac Disease present atypical symptoms. This means that most people with Celiac Disease don’t actually have the stereotypical signs.”
Stereotypical signs of celiac disease include gas, bloating, vomiting, diarrhea, extreme weight loss, fatigue, headaches etc.
Before considering non-celiac gluten sensitivity as a cause of gastrointestinal upset, it is important to first be tested for celiac disease. There is no approved diagnostic test non-celiac gluten sensitivity, although naturopaths possess the means to diagnose food allergies and sensitivities, gluten sensitivity being one of them.
The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness suggests that people gauge their sensitivity by exclusion; if a person feels better when gluten is eliminated from their diet, there is a good chance that the cause could be non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Some people suffering from non-celiac gluten sensitivity can consume up to 5g of gluten/day and remain symptom free, and do not suffer intestinal damage according to a 2011 study completed by the Research Institute for Gastroenterology and Liver Diseases.