Thursday, March 31, 2011
Gluten Free; Celiac Disease or Gluten Intolerance?
First, I’ll start with Celiac disease. Here’s the nutshell version; Celiac disease can be defined as a permanent intolerance to wheat protein and related alcohol-soluble proteins found in rye and barley. Celiac disease occurs in genetically susceptible individuals who eat these proteins, leading to an autoimmune disease, where the body’s immune system starts attacking normal tissue. This condition continues as long as these food products are in the diet. The resulting inflammation of the small intestine results in the lack of assimilation of critical vitamins and minerals.
Next in line is wheat allergy; wheat allergy is not the same as Celiac Disease. Other problems occur in individuals with wheat allergy when they eat wheat and related proteins. Wheat allergy is one of the top eight food allergies in the United States. Allergic reactions after eating wheat may include reactions in the skin, mouth, lungs, and more often that not the GI tract. Symptoms of wheat allergy can include rash, wheezing, lip swelling, abdominal pain and diarrhea.
Now we have the next runner up, gluten intolerance! It is possible to be non-Celiac and still experience intolerance to gluten. Common symptoms with wheat or gluten intolerance may include gassiness, abdominal pain, abdominal distension, and diarrhea. These symptoms are usually short-lived (although annoying) do not necessarily cause permanent damage.
If you suspect you could be afflicted with any of the above, it is important to identify whether you have Celiac Disease, versus wheat allergy or gluten intolerance. Celiac disease, wheat allergy and gluten-intolerance are treated similarly, in that individuals with these conditions must remove wheat from their diet. It is important to note, however, that there is a difference between these three medical problems. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition, where the body’s immune system starts attacking normal tissue, such as intestinal tissue, in response to eating gluten. While Celiac Disease, wheat allergy, and gluten-intolerance may be treated with similar diets, they are not the same conditions. It is very important to know which condition you may have. The person with Celiac Disease needs to monitor their diet carefully to avoid nutritional deficiencies and other autoimmune diseases. On the other hand, the symptoms from food allergies and intolerances resolve when the offending foods are removed from the diet.