It’s becoming more common to have problematic reactions after consuming foods that contain gluten. Gluten Intolerance and Coeliac Disease are the most common diagnosis among those who have problems consuming gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and sometimes oats. It’s important to know that gluten isn’t just exclusive to foods, but can also be found in vitamins, medicines, lip balms, and (oddly enough) lickable envelopes and stamps.
Difference between Gluten Intolerance and Coeliac Disease
Although Coeliac Disease and Gluten Intolerance are treated similarly, they’re not the same thing. Coeliac Disease can cause permanent damage, while Gluten Intolerance causes symptoms but only until it gets out of your system. Coeliac Disease is an autoimmune condition that’s triggered by consuming gluten. Gluten “Intolerance” is just that: an intolerance of the body’s inability to handle gluten.
Symptomatic vs. Non-Symptomatic Patients
Although Coeliac Disease is a permanent disorder and the symptoms will vary from person to person, some people are asymptomatic. Being asymptomatic means the small intestine is still able to absorb enough nutrients, which prevents symptoms from occurring. This does not mean you are free from the complications that Coeliac Disease can cause.
Gluten Intolerance and Coeliac Disease can contain a wide variety of symptoms. Common symptoms to watch out for include weight loss/gain, gassiness, diarrhea, fatigue, stomach pain, constipation and nausea. Depression, irritability and behavioural changes may also occur. Children actually appear as if they have malnutrition (which they do) and may have an extended belly.
It used to be more difficult (it still can be) to diagnose Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance since symptoms are very similar to other illnesses, like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s Disease and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Fortunately, tests can be done to rule out or determine if you’re suffering from Coeliac Disease. Common tests include blood tests that screen certain raised auto-antibodies, as well as a small intestinal biopsy. It’s extremely important to continue to eat gluten until you are tested since it is the presence of gluten that raises these auto-antibodies in the blood. Coeliac Disease is hereditary and if one person is diagnosed, the whole family should be checked.
The only way to treat Coeliac Disease and Gluten Intolerance is by making a lifestyle change of eliminating gluten. Although a gluten-free lifestyle can be challenging and a little more difficult financially, it’s essential to avoiding further damage caused by Coeliac Disease and those uncomfortable symptoms of Gluten Intolerance.
If Coeliac Disease is left untreated, it can cause severe damage to the lining of your intestinal wall. This leads to more severe problems like malnutrition, nutritional deficiencies and dehydration. If you do not cut gluten from your diet, or catch it in time, it can further progress causing damage to your major organs, which can lead to problems like iron deficient anaemia and even cancer.