What is Gluten Intolerance
Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance or Sensitivity
Gluten intolerance or sensitivity is a condition that causes a person to react after ingesting gluten. Symptoms vary widely and can include gastrointestinal problems, joint pain, fatigue and depression. The same symptoms are associated with celiac disease, so it’s important to get the correct diagnosis.
Research is still being done for biomarkers that would definitively diagnose gluten intolerance, but there is not yet a specific test. Gluten intolerance has been recognized as a real condition, after many years of being ignored by the medical community. In fact, gluten sensitivity has its own category in a list of gluten-related disorders recently created by a group of international celiac disease experts.
Scientists from the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment have also found that gluten sensitivity is a bona fide condition, distinct from celiac disease, with its own intestinal response to gluten. Although gluten-sensitive patients have the diarrhea, abdominal pain and other symptoms suffered by those with celiac disease, they do not have the intestinal inflammation, flattening of the absorbing villi or long-term damage to small intestine that characterizes untreated celiac disease.
According to the experts, gluten intolerance should only be diagnosed after first ruling out wheat allergies and celiac disease, using blood and other tests that can pinpoint those recognized disorders. Once testing is completed, improvements should be noticeable with a gluten-free diet.
Gluten Sensitivity and Celiac Disease
Researchers have found differences between celiac disease and gluten sensitivity in intestinal permeability and genes regulating the immune response in the gut. Intestinal permeability is the ability of the mucosal layer of the digestive tract to prevent bacteria, antigens, and undigested food proteins from seeping through the gastrointestinal barrier. Those who have celiac disease often have a high degree of permeability, sometimes called a leaky gut, but the study found that was not the case in those who are gluten sensitive.
Currently, the only treatment for gluten intolerance is following a gluten-free diet, which excludes all wheat, barley, rye and cross-contaminated oats.