Difference between Coeliac Disease and Gluten Intolerance

Of course you’ve heard the term ‘gluten’. But there are plenty of facts (and myths) about gluten floating around on the internet, making it difficult to discern the truth from the lies.

But what is gluten? Gluten is the name given to a group of proteins found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale (mix between wheat and rye). This group of proteins forms a sticky, glue-like substance that helps food to maintain its shape. Gluten can be found in all kinds of food, and consuming excess gluten can lead to various health issues.

Coeliac Disease and Gluten Intolerance

Gluten consumption isn’t fatal, but there are the select few among us whose bodies find it difficult to digest this protein. When certain people ingest gluten, they tend to experience inflammation in their digestive tract. There are two main causes for this – gluten intolerance and coeliac (or celiac) disease.

The problem with this negative reaction to gluten is that most doctors find it difficult to diagnose their patients. Both gluten intolerance and coeliac disease tend to produce the same set of symptoms, making it almost impossible to differentiate between the two. But let’s find out what really goes on with each of these conditions.

Coeliac Disease

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects at least 1 in 100 people. This condition is hereditary, and people with celiac disease need to abstain from eating any gluten products.

When people with celiac disease consume gluten, their immune system responds by mounting an attack on the small intestine. These responses are triggered by gluten and the immune system proceeds to destroy the small, finger-like projections lining the intestine. These projections, known as villi, help the body to absorb food, and once they are destroyed, your body finds it difficult to properly synthesise nutrients.

The only cure for celiac disease is for the patient to stay away from products containing gluten.

Gluten Intolerance

Most researchers aren’t entirely sure if gluten intolerance is a real disorder. But many individuals without celiac disease experience symptoms like bloating, a foggy mind, and abdominal pain after consuming gluten. These symptoms are similar to those experienced by people with celiac disease. This condition is termed as ‘Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity’ or gluten intolerance, and affects a large portion of today’s population.

In this case, your body views the gluten as a foreign body and fights it by causing inflammation inside and outside your digestive tract. The only difference is that here your body directly attacks the gluten, whereas in the case of celiac disease, the gluten cause your body to attack the intestinal lining.

Of course, the treatment for both these conditions are the same – a gluten-free diet.

While both these conditions can be quite bothersome, they can be easily dealt with. All you have to do is stop consuming gluten, and you should be fine in no time!

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