How Can You Tell If You Have Celiac Disease?

It seems like everybody is running away from gluten these days. 30% of U.S. adults are trying to eliminate gluten from their diets. If your body can’t process gluten like it should, it makes sense to avoid foods containing gluten. However, if you do not have a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, cutting out gluten won’t make a difference.

As odd as it sounds, self-diagnosing a gluten intolerance has become trendy in recent years. Some people think that gluten free food options are healthier than foods containing gluten. Others might diagnose themselves with a gluten intolerance.

It’s easy to read a few symptoms online and think, “Oh! I have that!”. You may be convinced that you have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity, a wheat allergy, or even celiac disease, despite never having discussed it with a doctor.

Nobody but a doctor should be diagnosing celiac disease, or any other disease for that matter. Celiac disease requires a medical diagnosis such as a blood test or endoscopy.

What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease (CD) is a genetic autoimmune disorder. For people suffering from celiac disease, ingesting gluten can damage intestinal tissues. It’s estimated that 1% of the general population have CD. Celiac disease can only develop in individuals with HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8 haplotypes. While 30% of the population carries these genes, only a small percentage develop the disease. It’s common for people with CD to experience other autoimmune disorders during their lifetime.

Celiac disease has over 300 identified symptoms including GI symptoms, chronic fatigue, anemia, infertility, skin rashes, and neurological disorders. CD requires a medical diagnosis.

Is there a difference between gluten intolerance and celiac disease?

Gluten intolerance is a casual way of referring to a category of gluten issues including celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergies.

CD can result in GI symptoms and inflammation of the small intestine, it can damage your intestinal tissue, and it can lead to a number of other complications if left untreated.

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) may result in GI symptoms such as cramping, diarrhea, or constipation, as well as other symptoms such as lethargy, headaches, and fatigue. NCGS does not damage tissues.

A wheat allergy may trigger your immune system, but typically doesn’t result in long term damage. Like all allergies, however, wheat allergies can be life-threatening.

The controversy over non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS)

NCGS – sometimes just referred to as gluten sensitivity – is a bit controversial. It is not associated with CD, and is not considered an autoimmune disease. Most importantly, there are no tests for gluten sensitivity. An individual with NCGS has symptoms when ingesting gluten that disappear when they stop consuming gluten and return when they resume eating gluten.

This can make it difficult to diagnose. For one thing, since most gluten-containing foods are made from wheat, it can be tough to distinguish between sensitivity to wheat and sensitivity to gluten. What’s more, most of us aren’t eating boiled wheat. Wheat-containing foods are likely to contain dairy products, sugar, and lots of other ingredients. Any of these things could be the source of an individual’s reactions.

How can you tell if you have celiac disease?

Diagnosing celiac disease isn’t something you need to know how to do. That’s what doctors are for. Don’t eat an entire half of a large triple meat pizza with extra cheese, attribute your upset stomach to the gluten in the pizza crust, and claim celiac disease. Gluten intolerance is more rare than most people think. If you suspect that you might have a gluten intolerance, contact your doctor.