Celiac disease is sometimes referred to as gluten intolerance, but there also appears to be a number of people who are gluten intolerant but don’t actually suffer from celiac disease—and this number may be on the rise.
In this blog, Manhattan gastroenterologist Dr. Anthony Borcich will address the difference between gluten intolerance and celiac disease and explain how these conditions are diagnosed and treated.
What is gluten intolerance?
Gluten is a protein in wheat, rye, and barley, so you’ll find it in products such as bread and pasta. If you have gluten intolerance (also known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity or NCGS), your body has a stress response when you ingest gluten. In contrast to celiac disease, this does not involve the immune system.
Gluten intolerance often results in symptoms such as abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, and diarrhea, but it doesn’t cause damage to your intestinal tissue. People with gluten intolerance often don’t have sufficient enzymes in their bodies to digest the amount of gluten consumed. It’s not completely understood how much gluten it takes to trigger symptoms.
There is also overlap with these symptoms and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. These symptoms are not specific to gluten intolerance, for example, being common in patients with irritable bowel syndrome.
What is celiac disease?
Celiac disease is a lifelong autoimmune condition triggered by eating foods that contain even a small amount of gluten. It causes damage in your small intestine whenever you consume food or drink that contains gluten.
People who are diagnosed with celiac disease are usually genetically predisposed to having this condition. They’ve reached a gluten threshold in their diet that stimulated the immune system to attack the lining of the small intestine. Over time, this can lead to nutrient malabsorption.
What causes celiac disease?
The precise cause of celiac disease is still unknown. However, there are several factors that may place you at a higher risk for developing this condition. Generally, about 1 in 100 people have celiac disease. If you have a first-degree relative (a parent, child, or sibling) who has celiac disease, you have about a 1 in 10 risk of also developing it.
This disease can sometimes be triggered into a more symptomatic phase after certain events, such as pregnancy, viral infections, surgery, or a great deal of emotional stress. The following are risk factors for celiac disease:
- Family history
- Race (celiac disease is most common among Caucasians)
- Having Sjogren’s syndrome (an immune system disorder characterized by dry eyes and mouth)
- Having an autoimmune thyroid disease
What are the symptoms of celiac disease?
Celiac disease can affect not only your digestive system but also your entire body. It can cause the following symptoms:
- Abdominal bloating
- Abdominal pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Acid reflux and heartburn
- Itchy skin rash
- Joint pain
What does testing for celiac disease involve?
The first step in determining the proper treatment for your symptoms begins with an accurate diagnosis. It’s important to see an experienced gastroenterologist who can evaluate your symptoms and your medical history. In order to make an accurate diagnosis, Dr. Borcich will start with a thorough evaluation. If necessary, he’ll order a test to evaluate your blood and an upper endoscopy, a procedure involving the examination of your upper digestive tract. All of Dr. Borcich’s endoscopy procedures are performed in Manhattan’s newest, most modern endoscopy center.
Where can I be treated for gluten intolerance and celiac disease in NYC?
Dr. Borcich is a board-certified Manhattan gastroenterologist who has more than 30 years of experience. He specializes in gluten intolerance and celiac disease and combines compassionate care with a knowledgeable, thorough approach.
Celiac disease is a chronic, lifelong condition, but many patients can achieve long-term symptom relief through a tailored treatment plan, which includes a gluten-free diet.
If you’re suffering from symptoms associated with gluten intolerance or celiac disease, schedule an appointment today with Dr. Borcich by contacting our office or by filling out the schedule appointment form right on this page. You’ll be taking the first step toward receiving an accurate diagnosis and corresponding treatment plan that can relieve your symptoms.