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By Jo Scrivner

Although the consumption of gluten (a protein found in certain grains) may cause unpleasant symptoms for many people, most of them are unaware that these symptoms can be the signs of several underlying medical conditions.

The most common gluten-induced diseases are:

  • Gluten allergy
  • Celiac disease
  • Non-celiac gluten sensitivity

1. Gluten allergy

A type of food allergy. The consumption of gluten-containing grains (e.g., wheat flour) causes allergic symptoms, such as rashes, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the lips and face.

2. Celiac disease (gluten sensitivity, gluten enteropathy)

Celiac disease, commonly referred to as gluten sensitivity, is not actually a sensitivity, nor is it an allergy, but an autoimmune disease.

A patient’s body with celiac disease is unable to process the consumed gluten and, as a response, produces an antibody against its own tissues, damaging the villi (small, hairlike projections) in the small intestine. This induces severe malabsorption and persistent inflammation. Absorption disorder also causes nutrient, vitamin, and mineral deficiencies over time.

Celiac disease is incurable, accompanies the patient throughout his life, but can be controlled with a gluten-free diet.

3. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity

A disease of the digestive system that usually is a result of antibiotic treatment. After antibiotic treatment, the permeability of the intestinal wall increases and nutrients enter the body semi-digestively, to which the immune system responds with a defense mechanism.

Symptoms can appear as early as a few hours after eating a gluten-containing meal.

Unlike celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity can be cured with a gluten-free diet, combined with pre- and probiotics.

Although the symptoms may be similar (abdominal pain after gluten consumption, bloating, bowel problems), the important difference is that in the case of non-celiac gluten sensitivity, the small intestine is not damaged and there are no long-term complications. It’s also significantly more common today than celiac disease.

If you frequently and persistently experience unpleasant or painful digestive symptoms after eating gluten-containing foods, it is recommended that you consult a gastroenterologist who can make an accurate diagnosis with appropriate tests.

All of these conditions can be made asymptomatic with a gluten-free diet. It’s important, however, to not self-diagnose or start a gluten-free diet without talking to a specialist first! A dietitian can help you put together a personalized diet while making sure that your body has all the nutrients it needs.

Disclaimer: Always consult your dietitian before changing your diet.

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