What’s the Difference: Wheat Allergy, Gluten Intolerance, Gluten Sensitivity

The following excerpt was published as part of a fantastic piece entitled, ‘Celiac Disease: Myth-busting answers to your questions about life without gluten,’ by Scientific writer and Co-author of ‘Celiac Disease, A Hidden Epidemic,’ Rory Jones.

“Wheat allergy occurs when the body produces antibodies (usually IgE) in response to wheat (i.e., – gluten, the protein found in wheat). These antibodies circulate throughout the bloodstream, triggering an immune response (an allergic reaction), which occurs within seconds or up to several hours after ingestiion.

Gluten intolerance is widely used to describe anyone who has symptoms after eating gluten that are relieved when it’s removed from the diet. If you have celiac disease, you are, by definition, gluten intolerant. But it is possible to be gluten intolerant and not have celiac disease.

Many people say they are gluten intolerant after feeling better on the gluten-free diet. They may diagnose themselves out of frustration after various doctors cannot agree on what is causing their symptoms. There is little doubt that increasing awareness of gluten intolerance has spurred a huge growth in gluten-free food options currently in restaurants and markets.

Gluten sensitivity is another widely used term when the ingestion of gluten causes various symptoms and its removal resolves the issues. Again, if you have celiac disease, you are by definition gluten sensitive but not everyone with gluten sensitivity has celiac disease. Gluten sensitivity and gluten intolerance are terms that are frequently used interchangeably.

Gluten sensitivity is believed by some experts to be a disease entity with its own immune mechanisms that affect different parts of the body. This means that the response to gluten in some patients occurs in organs other than the digestive system.”

The author warns that one should not self-diagnose celiac disease, as “it is a serious medical condition that requires a doctor’s care and the strict, life-long adherance to the gluten-free diet.”

To read the full article, purchase the April/May 2012 issue of Living Without.

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