What is the difference between Celiac disease and Gluten Sensitivity?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder of the digestive tract that is triggered when a person with Celiac ingests gluten. The only way to treat Celiac disease is by completely eliminating from one’s diet. As more and more people are being diagnosed as a Celiac, more and more companies are offering gluten-free foods and cosmetics to meet the demand.
There is a relatively new school of thought that there are some people who are not Celiacs but still get sick after eating gluten. This is known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity. This is a fairly new term in the medical community and shockingly, not all doctors believe that it even exists.
Although little research has been done on non-celiac gluten intolerance, in 2011 a team of researchers did a study on this; they wanted to prove their theory that gluten sensitivity uses a different immune system reaction than celiac disease. What they hypothesized is that if you have non-celiac gluten sensitivity when you ingest gluten, your body attacks the gluten directly, treating it like it would any foreign body- inflaming both the inside and outside of your digestive tract. This would make your stomach ache and make you feel not so nice, but once the gluten worked its way out of your body, there would be no real permanent damage (this is speculative; it is not known for sure if the damage is long lasting or severe at this time). With Celiac disease, your body does not attack the gluten directly; your immune system instead attacks its own tissue causing sever damage in your intestinal lining. I found that interesting that your body may reject gluten even if you don’t have Celiac disease. That gives a lot of credence to those who say that everyone should live a gluten-free lifestyle. Food for thought (no pun intended)!
It is not yet known if being gluten sensitive puts you at higher risk for other autoimmune disorders. However, if you are sensitive to gluten, it would be best for your overall health to avoid gluten.
Dr. Alessio Fasano, who led the study at the University of Maryland, has estimated that at least 6 to 7% of the population is gluten intolerant. If you do not feel well after eating gluten, it would be a good idea to get tested for celiac disease. If it comes back negative, but you still feel sick, you might just be gluten-intolerant.