There is a difference between Celiac disease, gluten allergy, and gluten intolerance or sensitivity. It’s funny while preparing to write this, and the differences between these separate reactions to ingesting gluten, I realized I know several people who fall into each one of these categories. Like so many things in life, people that eat gluten free cover a wide spectrum. From those that choose the life style for personal reasons all the way up to those that have extremely severe reactions when the slightest cross-contamination occurs with gluten and their food.
- I have several friends that chose a gluten-free lifestyle not because of a medical diagnosis, but because of several seemingly unrelated symptoms they found eating gluten-free seemed to alleviate; such as, inflammation in their joints, continual fatigue, or even ADHD behavior and Autism. There are a wide variety of symptoms that can be addressed by eating gluten-free.
- Let’s move into actual allergic reactions. They can be as mild as hives but can include people who have anaphylactic reactions to wheat. Just like other allergies, it is individual and distinct for each person.
- The same range exists within the group who suffer from Dermatitis Herpetiformis. It resembles eczema, but in someone else may be misdiagnosed as herpes. Similar to Celiac Disease, they can manage the symptoms by removing gluten from their diet.
- The last group ranges from gluten or wheat-sensitive individuals to full-blown Celiac Disease. It has always been believed that those with gluten or wheat sensitivity do not suffer damage to their small intestines. In a July 2016 study however, researchers at Columbia University Medical Center released findings that, while inconclusive, showed gluten sensitive people may actually be damaging their small intestines in the same way as those with Celiac Disease, but to a lesser degree. Gluten sensitivities can manifest themselves in so many different symptoms that they may not even seem to be connected to your diet. If you have symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, or migraines after eating breads or pasta you would probably make the connection but if you become moody or your joints ache you might not. These symptoms can all be related, making the correlation, though, takes some medical testing to know for sure. A way to be proactive would be to keep a food and symptom journal prior to seeing your doctor. You will need to continue to eat gluten until those tests though, otherwise your problems don’t show up in your blood work.
Whether you are trying out a gluten-free diet to see if it fits into your lifestyle, have allergies, sensitivities, Celiac Disease or Dermatitis Herpetiformis-no matter your reason for eating gluten-free, our hope is to show you that this lifestyle does not have to inhibit your life, but can become an adventure!