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What Is Gluten Intolerance?

Updated on December 25, 2013

Gluten Intolerance

Every day people become more aware of their Celiac Disease Symptoms — and Gluten Intolerance Symptoms — and recognize their vulnerability to Gluten.  It is my goal to help you identify these Gluten Intolerance Symptoms and recognize them as such.  From there, we will help you learn a variety of new Gluten free recipes and diets.  Living with Celiac Disease isn’t as disabling as you may think!

To begin with, please know that there is a difference between Gluten Intolerance Symptoms and Symptoms of Wheat Allergies.  Many people mistakenly interchange this term with Gluten allergy Symptoms.  Please keep in mind we will not use the terms “wheat” and “Gluten” interchangeably, as they are two different terms.  Additionally, please keep in mind, it is possible to experience Celiac Disease Symptoms but test negative for Celiac Disease.  Celiac Disease is sometimes also referenced as “Coeliac Disease” or “Coeliac Sprue Disease”, but in any case, they’re all known in the medical field as Gluten enteropathy.  Before we begin, keep in mind that adults can develop food allergies long into their lives, or suddenly for no apparent reason.

Finally, just remember that your Gluten Intolerance Symptoms do not mean that wheat Intolerance has taken over your life.  There is life after Celiac Disease.

Can Adults Develop Food Allergies?

Most adults believe that reaching adult hood signifies the end of developing food allergies. That’s not the case. There’s a good chance that your gluten intolerance symptoms or gluten allergy symptoms have been misread. This condition is highly under-diagnosed and isn’t understood very well by general physicians. There is no single all inclusive test for your gluten intolerance. Although sometimes an antibody test may tell you whether or not you have celiac disease, these tests aren’t 100% accurate. In fact, you may have gluten allergy symptoms, referred to as Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS).
What is Celiac Disease? What are the Symptoms of Celiac Disease?

The basic clinical definition of Celiac Disease is as follows: Positive antibodies to the proteins glutenin and gliadin, tissue transglutaminase, and intestinal endomysium, along with the verified presence of HLA-DQ8 or HLA-DQ2 genes.

However, this doesn’t exactly describe the possible symptoms you’ll experience.

If your doctor decides that your gluten intolerance symptoms are a direct result of you ingesting gluten, you will be diagnosed as having celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the small intestine and may make itself apparent at any point in your life. Many physicians believe that Celiac Disease is inherited, and for the most part, has been misdiagnosed in the past. This leads to the belief that your gluten intolerance symptoms may be relevant to your whole family, not just yourself. Fortunately, more people are realizing that gluten intolerance in children is an issue as well. Ten years ago, this issue was largely ignored. Gluten intolerance in adults on the other hand can be confused with ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, lactose intolerance, and yeast intolerance. Adults, unfortunately, learn to cope with these discomforts and let it go untreated.

Gluten Intolerance, NCGS, Wheat Allergy?

There are a barrage of tests that can be performed at your local doctor’s office (such as a blood tests) that can determine to some extent wether or not you have Celiac Disease, but a negative test result does not necessarily mean you do not have a wheat gluten intolerance.  There is a high percentage of people who are categorized as Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitive.

Before continuing it is important to understand that there are three separate groups.  Those groups are Celiac Disease, Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, and Wheat Allergy.

Celiac Disease is a condition caused by the proteins in gluten (such as glutenin and gliadin) that triggers your immune system to react with an over abundance of antibodies that are not typically produced by the body.  With these antibodies in your intestine over a period of time, they begin to destroy tiny hairs known as villi.  Those hairs are in place to collect and absorb nutrients as they pass through your intestine.  As Celiac Disease progresses, less nutritional value is gained from the food you ingest.  It’s easy to understand how this effect could snow ball into other more serious conditions, and even Dermatitis Herpetiformis, which is a rash caused by a gluten intolerance.

Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity isn’t as easy to identify at this point.  In summary, if you suffer from NCGS, you will many of the same symptoms of Celiac Disease, but the blood tests will turn out negative.  The best known method for diagnosing NCGS is by taking on a gluten free diet, and seeing if the symptoms subside.

Finally, there’s the Wheat Allergy symptoms.  The cause of wheat allergy symptoms are at its root different than those of celiac disease or gluten intolerance.  There is actually a histamine response to wheat and wheat products, similar to those who are allergic to say peanuts or shell fish.  Wheat allergies may cause a person to experience symptoms such as stomach cramps, stomach pains, difficulty defecating, or simply hives.
What Is Gluten?

Gluten, as previously identified, is a combination of two proteins, glutenin and gliadin.  They are found in many long grains such as rye, barley, and wheat.  In the United States, we are relatively dependant on gluten for a few things, particularly the nutritional value and the ability to change the texture of foods.  Over the past couple of years, science has suggested that our bodies may not be as accepting of gluten, and many people aren’t able to digest gluten properly.

Is Gluten Intolerance a Wheat Allergy?

Just because the reaction is a result of the proteins in wheat, Celiac Disease is not necessarily a wheat allergy. A Wheat Allergy is a very standard allergy that causes the body to produce antibodies to fight the allergen, whether it’s peanut oil or wheat in this case. Just because one has a wheat allergy, that does not mean they have Celiac Disease, gluten symptoms, or gluten intolerance. There is an important distinction between these different reactions in your body.

In most cases, the gluten intolerance symptoms are cumulative, as the gluten builds up over time. On the other hand, wheat allergy symptoms become evident very rapidly, much like other allergies. In a single exposure, one may develop hives or stomach cramps as a result of this wheat allergy. Gluten intolerance requires the person to make a few lifestyle and dietary changes, which can be frustrating.

Here’s a quick example to help show the difference. If you eat a piece of gluten dense bread and have no reactions in the short term, but have difficulty over a period of a day or two, you are displaying symptoms of celiac disease. If you begin cramping immediately, then these are signs of a wheat allergy. Gluten Intolerance symptoms and wheat allergy symptoms manifest themselves very differently.

This may be difficult to comprehend at first, but compare a wheat allergy to any other allergy. If someone were to walk through a flower patch with a pollen allergy, they would begin displaying allergy symptoms relatively quickly. Conversely, if wheat products are a staple of your diet and you continuously show mild signs, or progression of the gluten intolerance symptoms listed above, then you likely have gluten intolerance, which tends to be portrayed as more of a nutritional deficiency.

Keep all of this in mind to help you understand your gluten intolerance a little more effectively. As I develop this blog, I will assess more gluten intolerance symptoms as well as give examples of a completely gluten free diet and gluten free recipes to help you cope with gluten intolerance!


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    • strkngfang profile image


      7 years ago

      Good hub, Admiral. I tested positive for wheat and gluten sensitivities and have recently had to alter what I eat. I just have to say to be careful with "gluten free" products because they will substitute with a lot of corn, sugar etc, which still isn't good. I also tested positive for corn so I have to stay with rice based foods, fruits, vegetables and nuts. I'm better off anyway.

    • DrMikeFitzpatrick profile image


      7 years ago from Sandpoint, Idaho

      great info-so few are "dialed in" accurately. we have been gluten free for many years before it was a "in" thing. my wifes intolerance has us all on the diet, and you are correct, with both brown rice foods and creativity the diet is not so restrictive at all. in the end, we all have a very healthy lifestyle now. thanks again, Dr. Mike

    • crystolite profile image


      8 years ago from Houston TX

      Wow,Good informative article you shared in here Admiral.Actually,i so much love the splitted this particular topic to the smallest division so that every individual can understand what exactly you are trying to say.Thanks for this wonderful article,you are voted up.


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