Gluten intolerance is a term that refers to different types of adverse reactions to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Gluten intolerance can cause various symptoms, such as digestive problems, skin reactions, fatigue and mood changes.
There are three main types of gluten intolerance:
Each one has different causes and treatments.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects about 1% of the population. It causes inflammation and damage to the small intestine when gluten is eaten. People with celiac disease need to follow a strict gluten-free diet to avoid serious complications.
Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is a condition that causes similar symptoms to celiac disease, but without the immune response or intestinal damage. The exact cause of NCGS is unknown, but it may be related to factors other than gluten, such as FODMAPs (fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols), which are types of carbohydrates that can cause digestive issues in some people. People with NCGS may benefit from a gluten-free or low-FODMAP diet.
Wheat allergy is an allergic reaction to wheat proteins, including gluten. It can cause symptoms such as hives, itching, swelling, wheezing and anaphylaxis (a life-threatening reaction). Wheat allergy is more common in children than adults and can be diagnosed with a skin prick test or a blood test. People with wheat allergy need to avoid wheat and any products that contain it.
Let’s Recap: Gluten Sensitivity vs Celiac Disease
Gluten sensitivity is not an autoimmune disease, but it causes inflammation inside and outside of the digestive tract, leading to various symptoms such as bloating, abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, behavioral changes, bone or joint pain, muscle cramps, leg numbness, weight loss, and fatigue. Gluten sensitivity affects more people than celiac disease, but both conditions require a gluten-free diet to avoid symptoms. The main difference between celiac disease and gluten sensitivity is that celiac disease involves a specific immune reaction that damages the small intestine, while gluten sensitivity involves a more general inflammatory response that does not cause intestinal damage.