Main Difference – Celiac Disease vs Gluten Intolerance
Celiac disease and gluten intolerance are two medical conditions which are basically triggered by a protein known as gluten present in cereals such as rye, wheat, and barley. These two terms celiac disease and gluten intolerance are often used interchangeably even by health care professionals due to several common features they share. However, celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disorder that affects the digestive process of the small intestine whereas gluten intolerance causes the body to mount a stress response which is different from the immunological response that occurs in celiac disease. This is the main difference between celiac disease and gluten intolerance.
This article covers,
1. What is Celiac Disease? – Cause, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Management
2. What is Gluten Intolerance? – Cause, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Management
3. What is the difference between Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance?
What is Celiac Disease
Celiac disease is an auto-immune disorder which is triggered by consuming Gluten, a protein present in cereals like wheat and barley. As far as the pathophysiology of this disease is concerned, the gluten damages the gut lining and its villi, resulting in poor digestion and malabsorption of nutrients over time.
The majority of the individuals diagnosed with this condition have a positive family history; this supports the fact that celiac disease has a genetic predisposition. Furthermore, this can be triggered by stress, viral infections and environmental factors; it can also trigger during pregnancy or following surgery.Individuals with underlying autoimmune thyroid diseases and Sjogren’s syndrome ( an autoimmune disorder with dry mouth and eyes) are also at a high risk.
Patients with Celiac disease will mainly experience signs and symptoms related to the gastrointestinal system, but there can also be extra-intestinal features.
Diarrhea, pale-foul smelling stools, abdominal pain, loss of weight and appetite, constipation, acid reflux and heartburn
Headache, itching, rashes, anemia, osteoporosis, fatigue and joint pains
Effects of celiac disease during critical growth:
Failure to thrive in infants, delayed puberty in adolescents, short stature, irritability in the mood, weight loss, and dental enamel defects.
In order to make a proper diagnosis, a complete history of signs and symptoms, their duration, associated factors, diet and family history should be taken from the patient. A thorough physical examination will also be helpful to diagnose other associated diseases like autoimmune thyroid diseases and to exclude other conditions which might mimic celiac disease.
Upper endoscopy along with duodenal biopsy (show villous atrophy) and serological screening for coeliac disease assessing positive levels of HLA DQ2/DQ8 typing (the commonest gene associated with coeliac disease) will confirm the diagnosis.
Being a chronic and lifelong condition, there is no permanent cure for celiac disease, but a properly tailored treatment plan together with a gluten-free diet (avoid canned food, medication, and almost every eatable possibly containing gluten) will definitely improve the symptoms.
What is Gluten Intolerance
Also known as Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS), gluten intolerance characteristically causes signs and symptoms similar to that of celiac disease, without having an underlying celiac disease or wheat allergy. Researchers still trying to find a clear-cut etiology for this condition.
Patients will usually experience symptoms like mental fatigue (brain fog), physical fatigue, bloated feeling in the abdomen and headache.
Gluten intolerance is a diagnosis made by exclusion of other conditions like celiac disease and allergies to wheat in patients who are developing signs and symptoms following meals with Gluten. However, since there is no exact test to confirm the diagnosis, most physicians will advise patients to maintain a ‘Food and Symptom journal’ in relation to every meal they consume, so that a confirmed etiology of Gluten-diet could be revealed.
After the confirmation of the above feature, a gluten-free diet will be initiated which will have to be continued throughout the life.
Difference Between Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance
Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disorder that affects the digestive process of the small intestine.
Gluten intolerance causes the body to mount a stress response which is different from the immunological response that occurs in celiac disease. Individuals with gluten tolerance do not show any signs of intestinal damage or increased permeability.
Celiac disease can indicate both intestinal symptoms and extra-intestinal manifestations.
Intestinal symptoms: Diarrhea, pale-foul smelling stools, abdominal pain, loss of weight and appetite, constipation, acid reflux and heartburn
Extra-intestinal manifestations: Headache, itching, rashes, anemia, osteoporosis, fatigue and joint pains
Gluten intolerance symptoms include mental fatigue (brain fog), physical fatigue, bloated feeling in the abdomen and headache.
Both these conditions are triggered by the consumption of Gluten, however,
Celiac disease is diagnosed by a duodenal biopsy and serological screening
Gluten intolerance will be diagnosed by excluding possible causes of wheat allergy and underlying celiac disease.
Both conditions will strictly be followed by a gluten-free diet.
“Coeliac path” By Samir at the English language Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
“Gluten Free Bread” by @joefoodie (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr