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Posted on 01/30/2017 in Category 1

Coeliac or Gluten Intolerance – What’s The Difference?

Coeliac or Gluten Intolerance – What’s The Difference?

Coeliac or Gluten Intolerance – What’s The Difference?

A gluten free lifestyle has become incredibly common in Ireland. However there remains a significant level of confusion around the causes behind why people must adopt gluten free diets. Are they intolerant or do they have coeliac disease? Coeliac disease and gluten intolerance are in fact two separate health conditions and should not be confused as one of the same. However sufferers of both conditions have very valid reasons to avoid the consumption of gluten.

What is coeliac disease?

Coeliac disease is an auto-immune condition whereby the intestines become inflamed and damaged by the consumption of gluten, reducing the ability to absorb nutrients from food. Symptoms of coeliac disease can vary from person to person but can include diarrhoea, weight loss, abdominal pain, fatigue, skin rashes, headaches and joint pain upon consumption of even the smallest level of gluten. If untreated, coeliac disease can lead to further health complications such as osteoporosis.

Approximately 45,000 people in Ireland are believed to suffer from coeliac disease, although many sufferers remain undiagnosed. For testing of this condition to work, you must be eating gluten as a regular part of your diet when you present for testing. You will first undergo a tTG-IgA blood test. If the results of this blood test indicate a high level of celiac disease antibodies, a small intestine biopsy may be performed to assess for small intestine villi damage and confirm the diagnosis of coeliac disease. The only treatment for coeliac disease is to live a lifelong, incredibly strict gluten free diet. As a coeliac has no choice but to purchase all gluten free products for their rest of their life or face further health complications, the Irish government offers tax relief on the purchase of such products for diagnosed sufferers of the condition.

What is gluten intolerance?

Gluten intolerance, also known as NCGS - Non Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity, is not an autoimmune disease and does not result in the presence of antibodies or intestinal damage that celiac disease can cause. However sufferers can present with very similar symptoms to coeliac disease – bloating, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, headaches etc. – often even to the same degree as coeliac sufferers. Gluten intolerance is very difficult to diagnose as the symptoms can be influenced by many mitigating factors. Although more accurate diagnostic techniques are consistently emerging, diagnosis of gluten sensitivity still depends on determining changes in the cells lining the intestine which can prove complex. However those suffering from such symptoms find that they are significantly alleviated by adopting a gluten free diet.

Whatever your reasons for eating gluten free – be it due to coeliac disease, gluten sensitivity or as a lifestyle choice – you’re perfectly within your rights to do so! Whether you’re a diagnosed coeliac or not, if going gluten free makes you feel better, do it! With so many gluten free products available on the shelves on supermarkets across Ireland, eating a gluten free diet has never been easier.

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