Gluten Intolerance, Celiac Disease, or a Wheat Allergy: What’s the Difference?

Gluten is the name of a protein found in certain grains. Wheat and barley along with rye contain gluten. Gluten Intolerance, Celiac Disease, and Wheat Allergy have quite similar symptoms. Gluten is not tolerated by the body in each case. Doctors conduct several tests to be certain. Diagnosis can only be confirmed by particular tests for the three ailments.

Gluten Intolerance poses the greatest mystery to doctors in comparison to CD and WA. The tests are conducted to rule out CD and WA. A process of elimination through testing confirms the presence of gluten intolerance.

Celiac Disease requires invasive testing, most of the 3 tests. Testing for CD needs a biopsy of the small intestine. Testing the sample identifies particular antibodies that represent CD.

Wheat Allergy testing is quite similar to conventional allergy tests. A blood test or skin prick test can identify wheat allergy. By eliminating gluten from the diet, the changes in symptoms may be studied. The oral food challenge is another method of consuming suspected allergic foods in small doses to study the response.

Significant Differences

Gluten Intolerance

Celiac Disease

Wheat Allergy

The primary treatment is to remove gluten from the diet

The primary treatment is to remove gluten from the diet

The primary treatment is to remove wheat from the diet

GI is not well understood

CD is well understood

WA is well known

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity

An autoimmune condition

An Immune response

GI symptoms are in common with CD

CD symptoms are in common with GI

Symptoms differ from CD and GI

GI symptoms include cramping, diarrhea, constipation, bone or joint pain, headaches, or fatigue

The GI symptoms are cramping, diarrhea, constipation, bone or joint pain, headaches, or fatigue

Symptoms include itching, hives, or anaphylaxis

Knowing Gluten Intolerance Further

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is another name for the condition. The body’s response to gluten is negative in both GI and CD. Gluten intolerance means that taking gluten causes stomach pain and bloating for a while. There is no long-term suffering. CD is different in response to gluten ingestion when the immune system attacks its own tissue.

GI symptoms are mainly gastrointestinal. Watch out for such symptoms that indicate GI. The common symptoms are Diarrhea, Fatigue, Bloating, Stomach ache, Nausea, Gas, and Constipation. Some other uncommon symptoms overlap with CD. They are severe stomach pain, Headache, Joint and muscle pain along with confusion.

Solutions to GI are to supplement with digestive enzymes and eliminate gluten from the diet.

Know More About Celiac Disease

Gluten protein is found in wheat and barley, rye too. Gradually, the lining of the small intestine suffers damage through gluten consumption. Malabsorption results, and nutrients do not enter the bloodstream. The small intestine fails to absorb nutrients properly.

CD symptoms are a repetition of weak digestion like the GI ones: Diarrhea, Weight loss, Bloating and gas, Abdominal pain, Constipation, and Vomiting. Some symptoms do not relate to the digestive system. They are Itchy skin, Headaches and fatigue, Bone and joint pain, Mouth ulcers, and Seizures.

The solution to CD is to delete gluten completely from the diet. CD can get serious.

Recognizing Wheat Allergy

The immune system responds to gluten in wheat and other proteins but is temporary. CD is long-lasting. Besides, WA does not harm the small intestine but anaphylaxis can be dangerous. It is possible to outgrow WA but that does not happen in CD and GI.

WA symptoms mostly replicate those of GI and other food allergies. The common ones are Stomach cramps, Nausea, vomiting, Headache, and Nasal congestion. Skin rash and difficult breathing may occur.

Solutions for WA are medications like antihistamines and epinephrine. Giving up wheat would be recommended. The danger of anaphylaxis should be considered seriously.

Eliminating Gluten in General

Some believe that it is a wise policy to go gluten-free. They believe that gluten can cause a lot of harm. The food industry is ready with gluten-free products. Maybe the public could avoid some of the complications that gluten could cause. A little bit of gluten can do harm to people who are not suffering from the 3 ailments. Celiac patients need to avoid gluten completely to avoid inflammation that may last for weeks. Yet, no such problem arises with people in general.

Research on a large scale on 100,000 persons of both sexes aged 26 and higher concluded that consuming gluten did not bring heart risks. Other research does not support the need for gluten-free food among people in general. Regarding a weight loss gluten-free diet, evidence is lacking. The conclusion is that going gluten-free is not required, unless warranted.

Avoid self-diagnosis in view of the confusing similarities. Don’t decide based on the symptoms alone. Mouth ulcers, seizures, and itchy skin could come from CD but not from GI. Leave it to the specialists. Gluten elimination in a hurry is not necessary either. Wait and see.

Updated on: 05-May-2023


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