Gluten Intolerance Vs Celiac Disease: Giving Up On Gluten

March 6, 2024
Gluten Intolerance Vs Celiac Disease: Giving Up On Gluten

A gluten-free diet has been a popular food trend in recent years, with more and more people adopting a gluten-free lifestyle. However, what was the driving force behind giving up on gluten products?


Before we delve deeper into the topic, let us first understand what exactly gluten is. Gluten is a protein that can be found in any baked product, such as pasta and bread, that is made using barley, rye, or wheat. However, it can sometimes be used as an additive in several products, such as lotions, shampoos, soaps, medications, soups, soy sauce, and salad dressings.


A gluten-free diet is a diet plan that omits foods that contain gluten. It is usually recommended for individuals who have to manage celiac disease symptoms and other disorders associated with gluten products. However, it has been popular among individuals who are not diagnosed with any gluten-related disorder, too. Some claim that the diet plan has contributed to increased energy, weight loss, and improved health.


There are two main medical factors that drive individuals to adopt a gluten-free diet.


1. Celiac disease

Celiac disease is a severe autoimmune disease that develops in genetically predisposed individuals. An individual with celiac disease will suffer damage to their small intestine when exposed to gluten, in which their own immune system attacks their body.


Studies have put an estimate to about 1 in 100 individuals affected with celiac disease globally. When these individuals consume gluten, their own body mounts an immune response attack on the villi, which are tiny finger-like projections that line across the small intestine. As a result of such an attack, the villi become damaged, resulting in impairment of nutrient absorption.


When left untended, celiac disease can lead to an increased risk of developing severe chronic health consequences, such as early onset osteopenia or osteoporosis, gall bladder malfunction, infertility and miscarriage, liver failure, migraine and epilepsy, as well as intestinal and pancreas cancer symptoms. It can also increase your risk of developing other autoimmune disorders, such as type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune thyroid disease, lymphocytic colitis, and peripheral neuropathy.


Currently, the only form of treatment for individuals living with celiac disease is adhering strictly to a permanent gluten-free diet. They must avoid anything with gluten. Even ingesting a tiny amount, such as crumbs, can trigger their condition.


2. Gluten intolerance

Gluten intolerance, also known as gluten sensitivity, is often confused with celiac disease or gluten allergy. Gluten sensitivity is a digestive disorder that causes the individual to react to gluten, displaying mild discomfort and symptoms, such as flatulence, bloating, and diarrhoea. In rare cases, it can lead to impaired absorption of vitamin B12, leading to fatigue.


It is more complicated to diagnose as compared to celiac disease due to its subtlety. Gluten allergy, on the other hand, is an immune response to gluten and can often be life-threatening within minutes of consuming the food.


What should I do if I am unsure if I have gluten intolerance or celiac disease?

Despite what people have claimed, cutting out gluten from your diet completely may not necessarily be beneficial. In fact, gluten foods are rich in vital nutrients, such as fibre, vitamin B, calcium, and iron. Unless you have an official diagnosis of gluten sensitivity, have a family history of either condition or display associated symptoms, there would be no point in eliminating gluten completely.


In most cases where discomfort is experienced after consuming a gluten product, it is an intolerance, and that can be managed easily by consuming the food in small quantities or reducing the total amount eaten.


Nevertheless, should you worry, the first thing you should do is to make a gastroenterology visit. This is because there are several gut disorders that share similar symptoms to the two conditions, such as upper abdominal pain, which is also one of the gastric and IBS symptoms. In most cases, a simple blood test can reveal the answer. However, your gastroenterologist might also perform an endoscopy to determine further.


As a digestive care specialist, GUTCARE is committed to helping individuals with gut-related issues live a fuss-free and everyday life. Our doctors and medical staff are experienced with all sorts of gastrointestinal conditions. It is time to take charge of your gut health today.


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