Although both conditions are triggered by eating gluten, and many of the symptoms are the same, two key differences between gluten allergy and celiac disease are damage to the body caused by gluten, and chances of being ‘cured’.
Gluten Allergy and Celiac Disease vs. Gluten Damage
One of the hallmarks of celiac disease is the damage gluten causes to the intestines and other organs in the body. If you have celiac disease and you eat gluten, the villi in your intestine become flat, reducing food absorption, but also causing leaky gut syndrome, where undigested food molecules and other undesirable microscopic substances can enter the blood stream, causing all sorts of havoc in your body.
The intestine isn’t the only organ which can suffer damage. Virtually every organ in the body, from the thyroid, to the brain, can be affected when someone with celiac disease eats gluten-containing foods.
Some types of damage may be reversible. Generally speaking, the villi in the intestine grow back over several months, once someone with celiac disease completely cuts out all gluten from their diet, including trace amounts.
Other types of damage may not be. Bowel cancer is common amongst untreated celiac patients, and by untreated, I mean those who continue to eat gluten.
Gluten allergy may have many of the same symptoms as celiac disease, but it does not necessarily cause damage to the body. You may feel awful, but if you have a gluten allergy, most people return to normal once they have eliminated all, or even most gluten from their diets, depending on individual sensitivity. You may have to stay gluten-free for several weeks before you notice a recovery, for others with gluten allergy, recovery is faster.
A key difference between gluten allergy and celiac disease is the damage gluten causes to the body. With a gluten allergy, you feel bad until you stop eating gluten, but with celiac disease, real damage to organs can result, and it isn’t always reversible.
Chances of Being Cured
Avoiding gluten is a real chore, and we all miss our favourite gluten-laden foods. Is the gluten-free diet permanent?
If you have celiac disease, the simple answer is yes. End of story. You have to avoid any and all gluten, even in tiny amounts, for the rest of your life, or suffer the consequences, including a shortened life.
The answer for gluten allergy is not so clear. You may suffer a life-long allergy, but you may grow out of it. This is especially true for children. Some may not grow out of it entirely, but may find they can have some gluten occasionally, as long as they don’t over-do it. How much and how often? This depends on the individual. You may never want to try this experiment if your gluten allergy symptoms are severe, but there is a chance you may recover.
What are your experiences with celiac disease and gluten allergy? Did you have a gluten allergy and find it became less sensitive or disappeared over time? Where you or are you confused as to which you have: gluten allergy or celiac disease? Share your questions, comments, experience and wisdom below, please leave a comment.