Going ‘gluten-free’ has become a popular health trend. Everyone’s talking about it, but do you know the facts?

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found most often in wheat, barley and rye. Some people have an allergy or aversion to this substance which can wreak havoc on the digestive system and cause other symptoms. They may have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity, also referred to as a gluten intolerance. However, an estimated 1% of the population has celiac disease, a condition that can be life-threatening. Below is some information to help distinguish between the two.

Gluten Intolerance

The most common signs of gluten intolerance can begin up to 48 hours after consuming gluten. These may include bloating, diarrhea, cramping, headaches and pain. Unlike celiac disease, it’s not genetic. The only cure for gluten intolerance is a gluten-free diet, which can be prescribed after diagnosis.

Celiac Disease

While celiac disease has many of the same symptoms as gluten intolerance (bloating, diarrhea, cramping headaches and pain), it is a more serious condition. Unlike gluten intolerance, celiac disease can also cause anemia, behavioral changes, rashes, insomnia, stunted growth, infertility and even some cancers. When a person with celiac disease consumes gluten, inflammation is triggered in the small intestines, which leads to malabsorption of nutrients and malnutrition. When diagnosed with celiac disease, it’s not just recommended to stay gluten free, but essential.

So, how do you tell the difference?         

The only way to know if you have a gluten intolerance or celiac disease is to get tested and diagnosed by a board-certified gastrointestinal physician. The test, which may include a blood screening and small intestine biopsy, will have better results if you have not begun a gluten-free diet. It is also estimated that only 15% of people with celiac disease have been diagnosed. So, if you think you might have sensitivity to gluten, visit a board certified gastroenterologist for testing and then follow the treatment plan provided by your doctor.

Call Digestive Disease Associates in Hinsdale (630) 325-4255 to discuss your questions about celiac disease or gluten intolerance with our board certified gastroenterologist Dr. Suman Kaur. Visit www.ddahinsdale.com to learn more.


Note: This information shouldn’t take the place of a physician’s care. Please see your physician or Dr. Suman Kaur with any questions or concerns.