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Difference Between Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity
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Hello, I'm Dr. Dan Neumann for About.com here to help you understand the similarities and differences between celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.

Celiac Disease

Celiac is an autoimmune disease in which the toxic effects of gluten, a dietary protein, causes damage to the lining of the small intestine. It is this recurring insult to the body’s normal absorptive mechanism that leads to the clinical, serologic and histologic manifestations of celiac disease.

Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

On the other hand, non-celiac gluten sensitivity is a relatively recent term used to describe those individuals who cannot tolerate dietary gluten and may experience symptoms similar to those with celiac disease.

The difference, people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity lack the positive blood antibodies and the confirmatory intestinal histology seen in celiac disease even though the symptoms of diarrhea, weight loss, headaches and others still exist. Gluten sensitivity affects nearly six percent of the population and unlike celiac disease, does not appear to be genetically based.

There is currently no laboratory or histologic testing available to diagnose non-celiac gluten sensitivity, leaving this condition primarily a diagnosis of exclusion. Now, aside from traditional testing, we know that the onset of clinical symptoms may help differentiate people with celiac disease from those with a gluten sensitivity.

Recognizing Gluten Sensitivity

In general, gluten sensitivity patients typically have a more acute onset of symptoms ranging from hours to days whereas celiac patients often report suffering for weeks to years. One thing we do know however, both celiac patients and those who have gluten sensitivity respond quite well to the same treatment – the complete removal of gluten from the diet.

If you or someone you know has been experiencing symptoms suggestive of gluten intolerance, you should discuss with your physician whether testing or a gluten-free diet trial may be appropriate. I hope this has provided you with a better understanding of how we differentiate non-celiac gluten sensitivity from true celiac disease. Again, I’m gastroenterologist Dr. Dan Neumann and for more information on these topics and others, visit us on the web at health.about.com
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