Gluten Sensitivity vs Coeliac Disease

We thought it was about time we shed some light on the differences between Gluten sensitivity vs Coeliac disease. There has been a lot of hoopa-la over the past few years about a gluten free diet. Some take on this method of eating by choice, while others do it for what can be some pretty serious health issues. 

So what are the differences between Gluten sensitivity/ intolerance and Coeliac disease and how do they affect the body?

Gluten Sensitivity vs Coeliac Disease – what’s the difference?

Both Coeliac and Gluten Sensitive people can have very similar physical reactions to gluten. Their bodies see Gluten as a foreign matter and it triggers an array of physical symptoms; Inflammation, bloating, diarrhoea, and abdominal discomfort or pain, hives, and other skin conditions. 

However, Coeliac disease is an inherited autoimmune disorder, which means that gluten doesn’t just cause the above reactions but it also affects the digestive process of the small intestine. Over time this damage actually causes the prevention of absorbing nutrients, which to a child can be detrimental. 

Gluten sensitivity/intolerance, on the other hand, the physical symptoms mentioned earlier generally disappear as soon as the gluten has been eliminated from the body.

WHAT IF THEY KEEP EATING IT?

For people with Coeliac disease, it is important not to eat foods containing gluten for the following reasons:

  •  The immune system fires into an attack against the gluten and damages the healthy cells within the small intestine’s lining in the process.
  • The autoimmune activity related to Coeliac disease suppresses’ the small intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients from food and can cause malnutrition and conditions such as osteoporosis. 
  • Over time, if you suffer from Coeliac Disease but ignore it, it can lead to symptoms like;  brain fog, bone or joint pain, chronic fatigue, tingling in the hands or feet, and even depression or anxiety.
  • Coeliac disease is also associated with other autoimmune conditions including autoimmune thyroid disease and type 1 diabetes.

If you suffer from a gluten intolerance and frequently continue to consume it, the body can start showing other symptoms such as headaches, lethargy, hyperactivity, muscle weakness, and joint pain.

WHICH DO I HAVE?

If you continually experience the above symptoms after eating foods that contain gluten, it is pretty safe to say that you have some kind of disease or sensitivity to gluten. The first step in figuring this out for sure is through a blood test in which your doctor can conduct, this may have to be followed by other diagnostic tests.

In saying that, a blood test, unfortunately, cannot confirm a diagnosis of Coeliac disease. The blood test’s purpose is to try and find the presence of antibodies (Immunoglobulin E to be exact) which suggests an allergic reaction to gluten. There is every likelihood that you will need a colonoscopy to find out if there is any damage to the intestines. Don’t let any of this deter you though, it is very important to know.


If you are avoiding gluten, for whatever reason, here are some of the different words that suggest a food contains gluten: Wheat, Wheat flour, Barley, Rye, Wheat protein, Wheat starch, Bulgur (wheat), Malt, Couscous, Farina, Seitan, Wheat germ, Wheat germ oil, Wheat germ extract, hydrolyzed vegetable proteins, modified food starch, natural or artificial flavors, seasonings, and flavorings. Don’t forget that technically oats contain gluten too, but you can read more about that here.

Note: You should also be mindful of food products that don’t contain gluten-specific ingredients as they could still be cross-contaminated. For example, in particular, items that don’t contain gluten were produced on or with the same equipment that is also used to produce foods containing gluten, then these foods could trigger the above-mentioned reactions in the digestive system. This is more prominent for people who suffer from Celiac disease.


Our final thought; It’s important to remember that gluten sensitivity/ intolerance has only been recognized as a ‘stand-alone’ condition recently and there is plenty of discussion surrounding it. Not all doctors agree it exists. So if you feel constant discomfort and/ or physical side effects after eating products containing gluten and your doctor isn’t proactive, we strongly suggest that you listen to your body and persist with finding another GP that will listen and be proactive.

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