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Celiac Disease vs. Gluten Intolerance

Celiac Disease vs. Gluten Intolerance

What’s the difference between celiac disease and gluten intolerance?

Everywhere you turn you see gluten-free products and articles about the benefits of a gluten-free diet. While it’s certainly true that those with celiac disease or gluten intolerances should avoid or limit gluten, are there benefits to eliminating it from your diet if you don’t have any intolerances?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system mistakenly rejects gluten — a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye — and damages the lining of the small intestine. It’s typically genetic and affects every person differently. Symptoms can include diarrhea, abdominal pain and even irritability. Although celiac disease can’t be cured, it can be managed, typically starting with a gluten-free diet.

A gluten intolerance is described as a sensitivity rather than an autoimmune disorder.  Symptoms can include fatigue, cramping and constipation. Treatment could include a gluten-free diet, but doesn’t necessarily mean cutting gluten out entirely. And, unlike celiac disease, eating gluten will not cause long-term effects. A gluten-free diet usually consists of fruits, vegetables, meat and whole grains; including quinoa, rice, buckwheat, tapioca, arrowroot, etc.

If you don’t have a gluten intolerance, will going gluten-free be beneficial to your health? There’s no conclusive evidence that following a gluten-free diet has additional health benefits. In fact, avoiding gluten might cause adverse effects to your health, so avoid making any extreme diet changes without talking to your doctor.

If you have chronic or frequent symptoms of celiac disease or gluten intolerance, it’s important to talk to your doctor and get an accurate diagnosis. Together, you can determine a treatment plan that’s right for you. Find a doctor.


This article first appeared in the May 2021 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.