Gluten Intolerance vs. Celiac Disease: Let’s Get the Facts Straight

Gluten intolerance and celiac disease are conditions associated with gluten. These two conditions are different but many mistake them to be the same. That’s why we’ll be having a look at gluten intolerance vs celiac disease.

Woman sitting on bed suffering abdominal pain

There are sure so many diseases and infections in medicine. And many a time people mix the names of many diseases. So many people have little knowledge as to these conditions. But because many people interchange them, they are now commonly believed to be the same. This is the perfect description of gluten intolerance and celiac disease. So many believe that these two mean the same thing. When in fact, they don’t. They are two different conditions with just a few similarities. So to help straighten things out we’ll be having a look at gluten intolerance vs celiac disease. We’ll have a look at the similarities and differences. 

You may be wondering, where did people now get it wrong? Why did people think they are the same conditions? Well, the answer to that is quite simple. The culprit here is gluten. These two conditions are associated with gluten. But the pathology of both conditions differs even when the cause is the same. Celiac disease is quite common and easily diagnosed. But as for gluten intolerance that isn’t the case. Gluten intolerance just became a stand-alone quite recently. And there are no specific diagnostic tools in determining it’s gluten intolerance. Anyway, let’s have a closer look at the cause of these conditions. And also how they differ. 

What is Gluten? 

Gluten is a protein that is present in many grains. Such as rye, wheat, barley, and spelled. Among all these, the most consumed happens to be wheat. Gluten can also be found in other foods like baked foods. Such as pasta, seasonings, bread, and spices. 

Gluten is one controversial word. Many people say that only people with celiac disease have to go gluten-free. At the same time, other sources say that gluten is harmful to many people. 

This protein is known to be the cause of gluten intolerance, celiac disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. That’s why a gluten-free diet has gained a lot of popularity. Many people experience these conditions and the best way to manage is by staying away from gluten. 

What is Gluten Intolerance? 

As you already know, gluten intolerance is a gluten-related condition. This condition is also commonly called non-celiac gluten sensitivity. 

Symptoms associated with gluten intolerance usually occur after a person consumes wheat. These are some of the common signs and symptoms: 

  • Diarrhea 
  • Bloating 
  • Nausea 
  • Belly pain 
  • Feeling unwell 
  • Tiredness 

Some not so common symptoms are: 

When you have these symptoms seeing a doctor is important to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms. Diagnosing gluten intolerance is not so easy. The main method of diagnosing is by ruling out other serious conditions. Once serious conditions have been eliminated, then your doctor can then say it’s glucose intolerance. 

What is Celiac Disease? 

Celiac disease is a chronic disorder of the digestive system. This disease is caused by an immune reaction to the protein gluten. Specifically, gliadin found in gluten. 

This condition involves inflammation of the lining of the small intestine. The lining is usually destroyed. And this leads to malabsorption of many nutrients and minerals. 

Celiac disease can be found in 1 in 141 Americans. Anyone can be affected by the celiac disease at any age. But it usually starts in middle infancy. People with a genetic history of celiac disease are at higher risk of having this condition. 

Symptoms of celiac disease include:

  • Joint pain 
  • Gastrointestinal problems like bloating, diarrhea, cramps, vomiting, and nausea
  • Fatigue and weakness 
  • Foul-smelling stool
  • Nose bleeds 
  • Iron deficiency anemia 
  • Nutrient deficiencies 
  • Headaches and migraines 
  • Blood in stool 
  • Muscle wasting 

Celiac disease is a condition that’s long term. And there is no cure for this condition. It can only be managed by sticking to a gluten-free diet. This does not only involve staying away from gluten but also other gluten-related foods. 

For some people, they experience skin disease. The skin begins to itch and blister. The rash is usually seen in the knee, scalp, torso, elbows, and buttocks. This condition is treated with medication or a gluten-free diet. For some, both treatment methods are used. 

Some factors increase the risk of having celiac disease. Some of the factors are: 

  • Addison’s disease 
  • Type 1 diabetes 
  • Down syndrome 
  • Autoimmune thyroid disease 
  • Microscopic colitis 

Gluten Intolerance vs Celiac Disease 

Now that we have an idea of what gluten intolerance and celiac disease is all about, let’s compare and contrast. 

Celiac disease is more prevalent than gluten intolerance. Many physicians still don’t agree that gluten intolerance is a medical condition. And because of this, not so much attention has been paid to this condition. On the other hand, everything about celiac disease is well-documented. 

Gluten intolerance isn’t as severe as celiac disease. As for gluten intolerance, the body just thinks gluten is a foreign substance. And with that inflammation process kicks into the picture. With celiac disease, it’s an immune response that destroys the lining of the small intestine. That’s why symptoms associated with celiac disease are more severe. 

Celiac disease has more complications than gluten intolerance. As for celiac disease, there’s malabsorption and other growth-related problems. Celiac disease is also associated with other autoimmune diseases. With gluten intolerance, there’s no evidence of it causing other complications. 

One of the things they both have in common is the treatment method. Which is a gluten-free diet? Following a gluten-free diet would help manage these two conditions. This is the reason why people mistake these two conditions to be the same. 

Another thing they have in common is their symptoms. Both celiac disease and gluten intolerance show symptoms like pain, bloating, and fatigue. For this reason, as well, people think these conditions are the same. Celiac disease is a genetic disease. While gluten intolerance has no proof that it’s genetic. 

We hope you’ve gotten a better view of these conditions. And that you now understand the differences and similarities of gluten intolerance vs celiac disease. 

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