What is Gluten Intolerance?
Updated: Oct 15
Gluten intolerance, often referred to as non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), is a condition in which individuals experience symptoms similar to those of celiac disease when they consume gluten-containing foods, but without the autoimmune response and damage to the small intestine seen in celiac disease. It is a distinct condition from celiac disease and wheat allergy.
Here are key points to understand about gluten intolerance:
Gastrointestinal Symptoms: Individuals with gluten intolerance may experience symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and gas after consuming foods containing gluten.
Non-Gastrointestinal Symptoms: Some people with NCGS may also have non-gastrointestinal symptoms, including headaches, fatigue, joint pain, and mood disturbances.
Symptom Variability: The symptoms and their severity can vary widely from person to person.
Gluten Sensitivity: The exact cause of gluten intolerance is not fully understood, but it is believed to involve a sensitivity to gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and their derivatives.
Exclusion of Other Conditions: Diagnosis of gluten intolerance typically involves first ruling out celiac disease and wheat allergy, both of which require specific testing.
Symptom Improvement with a Gluten-Free Diet: A diagnosis of NCGS is often made when individuals experience symptom improvement on a gluten-free diet and symptoms worsen upon reintroduction of gluten.
Treatment and Management:
Gluten-Free Diet: The primary treatment for gluten intolerance is the elimination of gluten-containing foods from the diet. This includes avoiding wheat, barley, rye, and products made from these grains.
Careful Label Reading: Individuals with NCGS must carefully read food labels and be vigilant about avoiding hidden sources of gluten in processed foods and restaurant meals.
Dietitian Guidance: A registered dietitian with expertise in gluten-related disorders can provide valuable guidance on maintaining a balanced and nutritious gluten-free diet.
Difference from Celiac Disease:
NCGS is different from celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder triggered by the ingestion of gluten and characterized by intestinal damage, malabsorption, and the presence of specific antibodies. In contrast, NCGS does not involve the autoimmune response or intestinal damage seen in celiac disease.
Difference from Wheat Allergy:
NCGS is also distinct from wheat allergy, which is an allergic reaction to proteins found in wheat. Wheat allergy can cause immediate allergic symptoms, including hives, difficulty breathing, and anaphylaxis, and is diagnosed through allergy testing.
It's important to note that gluten intolerance is a relatively new and evolving area of research, and some aspects of this condition are still not fully understood. As a result, there may be variations in how healthcare providers diagnose and manage NCGS. If you suspect gluten intolerance, it is advisable to seek guidance from a healthcare provider or dietitian who can help with diagnosis and provide dietary recommendations tailored to your specific needs.
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