October 25, 2008

 

Celiac Disease, Gluten Intolerance, or Wheat Allergy?

Celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and wheat allergy are all conditions that lead people to eat a gluten-free diet. While the diet is the same (mostly), there are differences among the conditions.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease. When gluten is ingested, the immune system triggers an attack on the person's own body, specifically the small intestine. The attack causes damage to the villi lining the small intestine. The damage can be healed after switching to a gluten-free diet. Celiac disease cannot be outgrown, and a person diagnosed with it should follow a gluten-free diet for life.

Gluten intolerance does not involve the immune system and does not cause damage to the body. It is, however, very unpleasant to live with an intolerance because the digestive system is intolerant to the particular food, causing gastrointestinal symptoms.

Any allergy, including wheat allergy, is an immune response. While the body sees the trigger as a danger and produces unwanted symptoms, it does not attack itself and damage tissue as in celiac disease. That doesn't mean allergies are not dangerous. They are certainly life threatening in people who react by going into anaphylaxic shock. Allergies are not necessarily life long. Many children outgrow food allergies.

I think it is unfortunate that many people today are going on a gluten-free diet without being tested for celiac disease. I understand their desire to do anything that will help them feel better because I have been there myself. The problem is that tests for celiac disease will not be accurate if a person has been gluten-free for a while. Going back on gluten is hard. Thankfully, I only had to do it for two weeks because I had not been gluten-free for long.

If a person has celiac disease, a formal diagnosis can be beneficial for several reasons. Here are a few of those reasons with the first one, I believe, being the most important.


I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts and questions on any of these topics. If you eat gluten free, are you a celiac, intolerant, allergic or unsure?

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Comments:
I was tested over the summer for celiac but the test did not confirm that I have it. As far as I know, I am just gluten intolerant. I just double over in pain when I eat wheat. I am finding it very difficult to cook this way. My son has lots of food allergies and I am a vegetarian. It feels like I am in the kitchen all the time and most of what I prepare does not taste very good. I hope to try out some of your recipes soon.
 
I really wish that early celiac disease testing would be "advertised" more. I have been eating gluten free for a year now (and off and on for almost 4) so my test would most likely come out negative. I was told the only way to get an answer would be a colonoscopy now? No thanks! I regret not getting the simple test earlier because I do think I would feel better mentally with a true diagnosis, friends and doctors would believe me/be more supportive. I often get "oh you can eat this, it only has a tsp of flour!" or "scrape the topping off!" or "you can't possibly be allergic to soy sauce!" It's annoying. I know they are just trying to help, but it's tiring.

Anyways, to answer your question, I think I have Celiac disease, but I haven't been tested. I have the cramps and extreme diarrhea when I eat wheat type grains/products and oats. How's that for an answer! :)
 
Chatty Housewife: At this time celiac diagnosis includes blood testing for antibodies and small bowel biopsy done by endoscopy. Both would be negative if you've been on a gluten-free diet for a while.
 
That is interesting to know, thanks for the reply!
 
I know you said you went back on gluten for two weeks but how long were you off of it before that?

I have just been off it for a week so I know I have gluten intolerance because I feel so much better but I also have fibromyalgia and I'm wondering if I also have celiac (or maybe my fibro was misdiagnosed?).

Thanks~
 
Terri - I think I was off gluten about a month. You should probably go back to eating a little bit of gluten each day and get tested for celiac as soon as you can. Keep me posted.
 
Thank you again Linda for another great tip ;) As Terri expressed above, my son definitely has something up with him and gluten and like you said Linda, I'd like to know how important it is for him to be off gluten from a health perspective.

For example, his sisters were having a small pack of maltesers and he wanted some. Because we don't know what the deal is yet, I let him have some (and yes, they started an issue with his nose!) but wouldn't have done so if I'd known it was damaging his body.

Will try the docs again tomorrow,
Eleanor
 
Thanks Linda for the information...I was tested for Celiac Disease after my sister was diagnosed with the disease. I tested negative, but I knew that I was symptomatic when I ate anything with gluten in it and I had suffered from chronic stomach pain and constipation for most of my life.
I was gene tested and do have 2 celiac genes from both parents. (HLA-DQ 2,2) Although I realize that gene testing does not diagnosis anyone with the disease, it did give me good information that I am more at risk for the disease and also information to give to my own children.
I did use enterolab, which many non-traditional physicians use to diagnose gluten sensitivity and I did have elevated ttg and malabsorption. Most traditional physicians dismiss enterolab's stool testing method...but for me...I needed as many reasons to gluten free as I could get my hands on.
So again, do I have what traditional physicians call Celiac Disease..no..But I do know that gluten causes me problems, and with the double genes, and elevated stool ttg and malabsorption..I decided to go gluten free...and all those years of symptoms have totally vanished! Thanks for all you do Linda...
 
3 Dr.s have told me that you can test positive for Celiac Disease and have it and you can test negative for it and have it so I dont think the tests are a sure diagnosis. I have had chronic diarrhea for 30 years. I had my gall bladder out 2 years ago. this winter i started having severe pain 4-6 days a month. I had both an endoscopy and colonoscopy and had esophageal ulcers but all else was normal. the i started having severe pain more often, no pain med touched it and when it became so severe 6 out of 7 days a week and i have a very high pain tolerance, my Dr. said You are getting worse and i want you to try a gluten free diet. Pain was gone for 10 days and i ate a little gravy and pain came back. Now i am on gluten free diet and occasionally i have pain and i can look back on the day before and by searching the internet i can alway find wheat somewhere. It takes just a tiny bit of wheat to cause me severe pain and no way could i could stop gluten free without severe pain.
I just found your site and love reading your recipes and plan to try them all. I do not have a recipe for sorghum flour mix.
Thank You
 
Sherill ~ I'm so glad you have found an answer to your problems. There is lots of help here and at other sites. The sorghum flour mix can be found on this page, though I usually just use specific flour amounts in recipes:
http://www.glutenfreehomemaker.com/2009/03/gluten-free-flour-mixes.html
 
When I was told that I was gluten intolerant from blood test the doctor explained the importance of me going on a gluten free diet. I kind of snubbed the idea at first. I have now been gluten free for almost 2 years. When I did finally decide to become gluten free, I noticed within just a few weeks the symptoms that I had were gone. A rash that I had had for years finally cleared up and the intestinal issues that I suffered from also cleared up. I am still learning and have just found a bakery nearby that is gluten free and have had my first "edible" bread recently since I went gluten free.
I love being able to read blogs from others that are gluten free, because it helps me to learn how to implement this lifestyle to the next step.
I just recently learned about this blog and am finding it most helpful. Thanks for all of your help in teaching me how to live a gluten-free life.
 
Cheryl ~ You're very welcome. Thanks for sharing some of your story.
 

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