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Celiac, Allergy or Non-Celiac gluten Intolerance: What’s the Difference?

Submitted by on September 16, 2011 – 9:12 am2 Comments

Gluten Free - Loaf of Bread with Slices

Do you have Celiac disease or a general intolerance to gluten?

Many people have been told or have chosen to eliminate gluten from their diets and the diets of their families. For many they see a great response in how they feel and function whether they have confirmatory tests or not. However, many are confused about the differences between celiac, an allergy and non-celiac gluten intolerance. I want to explain this to you so you can understand the potential effects on your body. This can be very confusing but many treat them equally. It matters what you are dealing with for your long-term management and health.

Celiac disease is a digestive disease that results in damage to the small intestine and is genetically inherited and chronic. When those with celiac ingest gluten their bodies have an immune response. This response damages the small intestine and causes nutrients to pass through the digestive tract without being absorbed. This leads to malnourishment, failure to thrive and distress within the digestive system. Some common symptoms seen with celiac resemble gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating, gas, abnormal bowels, nausea, seizures, anemia, fatigue, skin irritation, memory problems, headaches and body pain. To diagnose celiac doctors start with blood work and if these are positive can perform a bowel biopsy for a definitive diagnosis. Many parents choose not to do a biopsy but choose to instead refrain from gluten items. Eating gluten free is the treatment for celiac disease.

Allergies to foods effects almost 11 million people living in the US. IgE mediated allergies are the most common group of food allergies, the most commonly known. IgE (immunoglobin E) is an antibody, a type of protein that works against a specific food. There are 8 top allergies the FDA identifies: wheat, eggs, soy, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, shell fish and fish. Some children will outgrow their allergies and often they do not without proper nutritional interventions.

Non-Celiac gluten intolerance/sensitivity is becoming more common. Some say you cannot have an IgE allergy to gluten; the wheat allergy is to another component and not gluten itself. Others argue that wheat allergies are an actual IgE response to gluten, as always the debates continue. A true IgE allergic reaction is NOT celiac disease; this is a common misnomer among patients. The common symptoms seen with food intolerance are diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. To rule out sensitivity its best to ask your physician for an IgG food allergy test, this test is designed to look at sensitivities to food, not the same as IgE allergies. Most people do not have a true IgE allergy but do suffer with an IgG allergy, making those foods reactive within their body.

IgE Allergy
Reaction:    proteins or chemicals in food. This yields immune reaction.
Reaction Time: Immediate, minutes to hours. This yields immune reaction.

Celiac Disease
Reaction: Proteins- gliadin and glutenins
Reaction Time: Delayed, approx 30 minutes to 24 hours

Gluten Sensitivity
Reaction: proteins, carbs, other chemicals in the food. This is not an immune reaction.
Reaction Time: Slow, delayed several hours to days

Diagnosing the difference between an intolerance and celiac requires proper testing with your physician. Either way there are things that can be done nutritionally to support the body and in some cases eliminate a food allergy. If you suspect you have an allergy make an appointment with your physician to get help TODAY!

Source: Dr. Brooks,


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