September 21, 2023

Gluten Allergy vs. Intolerance: Signs Symptoms and Treatment

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Gluten intolerance occurs when your body is unable to tolerate a compound known as gluten, which is found in barley, wheat or rye. Gluten intolerance is collectively used to refer to conditions associated with gluten malabsorption such as wheat allergy, celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Gluten allergy is a condition in which the body secretes antibodies to “defend” itself against the offending food. The main difference between gluten intolerance and gluten allergy is that in the latter, antibodies are produced for “defense”, which isn’t the case in gluten intolerance.

Signs and Symptoms

A symptom refers to what the patient describes (e.g. abdominal pain) while a sign is what other people can physically see (e.g. rash). Common symptoms of gluten allergy include bloating, swollen tongue, breathing difficulties, rash, low blood pressure, fatigue, flatulence and abdominal pains. Physical signs of gluten allergy include weight loss, malnutrition and diarrhea. The gastrointestinal symptoms associated with gluten intolerance include flatulence, stomach cramps and rashes.

Celiac Disease

Severe cases of gluten intolerances are classified as celiac disease. This condition affects the small intestine making it difficult to digest food properly by damaging the villi, the finger-like projections that cover the wall of the small intestine. Symptoms of celiac disease include depression, osteoporosis, fluid retention, gastritis and stunted growth in children.

Recommended Diet

If you’re sensitive to gluten, talk to your physician about getting tested before you decide to manage the condition alone with a gluten-free diet. Going on a gluten-free diet before diagnosing the gluten allergy or intolerance heals the damaged villi in the small intestines, making it difficult to diagnose the condition.

Work with your doctor and s/he will give you the green light to go on such diet if you’ve been diagnosed with gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity, advises Coeliac UK

Avoiding gluten means abstaining from all food items or products that contain gluten such as barley, wheat and rye. You’ll then have to replace bread and cereals with rice or other gluten-free grains. Other nutritious gluten-free foods include beans, fresh eggs and vegetables.

Gluten Allergy or Intolerance Test

When getting tested for a gluten allergy, you should inform your doctor about all symptoms that you experience and what foods trigger them. The more details that you provide, the easier it will be to determine whether a gluten allergy or intolerance is at play.

The next step involves a skin prick test. The doctor does this by placing a little amount of gluten on the pricked spot and allowing it to seep under your skin. He or she will then observe the spot to see whether the characteristic symptoms of an allergy develop. If you are allergic to gluten, a bump is likely to develop on the pricked area.

The final step involves a blood test. This test evaluates how your immune system responds to gluten found in various foods. Examples of such tests include Anti-Endomysial Antibody test and Anti-Tissue Transglutaminase.

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