Gluten-related disorders are a spectrum of conditions related to the consumption of gluten, a protein found in all forms of wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten can also be found in oats as processing them often involves cross-contact. The most common gluten-related disorders include Celiac Disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergy.
First, seek professional advice from a healthcare provider who is certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. Commonly healthcare providers will diagnose a gluten-related disorder with a physical exam, blood test, intestinal biopsy, skin biopsy, genetic testing, and/or medical history. Once you medically identify your individual concerns, consider seeking the advice of a registered dietitian to understand your individual dietary needs.
There are a variety of gluten-related disorders and distinguishing their differences will help you understand how they impact your health.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the lining of the small intestine which interferes with nutrient absorption from food. Affecting nearly 3 million Americans, or about 1 percent of the population, this disease if often hereditary. An exposure can last a few hours to days and common symptoms include digestive problems, headaches, joint pain, fatigue, and long term intestinal damage accompanied by nutritional deficiencies.
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is often described as a short term immune response that produces similar symptoms to those of Celiac Disease, such as digestive problems, headache, joint pain, and fatigue. The reaction is felt hours or days after the exposure. It differs from Celiac Disease in that it is often not heredity, not an autoimmune disease and does not cause the same long-term intestinal damage.
Previously referred to as “gluten sensitivity” or “gluten intolerance,” “non-celiac gluten sensitivity” is a newly established name and the issue is just beginning to be researched and understood. Currently, healthcare providers estimate that up to 18 million, or 6 percent of Americans, are affected.
A wheat allergy is an immune response that releases a host of chemicals, including histamine, within minutes to hours after wheat is ingested. These chemicals trigger a host of allergic symptoms that can affect the respiratory system, digestive tract, skin, and/or cardiovascular system. The most severe reaction is anaphylaxis which can be deadly. Currently, it is estimated that 300,000 Americans, or 0.4 percent of children and 0.1 percent of adults are affected.