What is gluten intolerance and why it is not the same as celiac disease.

It's a banner. In the background is a bread. In the lower left corner there is a text that says: "Gluten intolerance: meaning and questions".

There is a tendency to categorize diseases that have similar ailments, as being the same.  When someone cannot eat gluten, there is an assumption that they are celiac. However, the reality is, there is a lot of gray area and we're going to dive into some of this information below.


People who cannot consume gluten are not necessarily celiac. Celiac disease and gluten intolerance or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) are two conditions that affect the digestive system. Although their symptoms may appear similar in some contexts or situations, they are two different conditions.

Celiac disease is an immune system response to gluten that can affect different systems such as the nervous and endocrine, according to Verywell Health. Gluten intolerance is the inability to process this protein which manifests itself only in the digestive system

In 2011, a team of researchers from the University of Maryland Celiac Research Center put forward a hypothesis that has yet to be tested. According to research, a person suffering from gluten intolerance experiences a direct reaction to gluten. "Her body sees the protein as an invader and fights it with inflammation."

With celiac disease, the immune system does not attack the gluten directly, rather the immune system attacks its own tissues, that is, the intestines.

It should be noted that some specialists still do not agree with the existence of gluten intolerance. Therefore, we resolve some questions, according to what has been published in different studies.


1. Does gluten sensitivity increase the risk of other conditions?


It is still not clear. Some researchers believe that this is the case, while others do not. It is also not known with certainty if it causes any organ damage or if it simply causes symptoms without any type of effects.


2. Who has gluten intolerance?


Anyone can have gluten intolerance. Some people were born with this condition, others develop it later, according to the Cleveland Clinic.


3. What are the symptoms of gluten intolerance?

  • bloating or gas.
  • abdominal pain
  • fatigue
  • diarrhea or constipation
  • nausea and vomiting
  • headaches
  • anemia

It should be noted that according to this clinic, many people who are intolerant to gluten also have irritable bowel syndrome.


4. Is there any treatment?

A gluten-free diet is the treatment of choice. However, it is still not clear whether a lifelong gluten-free diet is needed. One study reported that 74% of patients with this condition were on a wheat-free diet for 8 years after diagnosis and continued to display symptoms after consuming gluten.


5. What is the prevalence of this condition?


According to Celiac Canada, non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is generally self-diagnosed, making it very difficult to establish its prevalence. A study carried out in the United Kingdom emerged that out of 1002 UK people, 13% actually have gluten sensitivity.



Anderson, J. (2022, August 11). Differences between celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. Verywell Health. https://www.verywellhealth.com/gluten-sensitivity-vs-celiac-disease-562964

Association, C. C. (2023, April 28). Celiac disease - what is it?. Celiac Canada. https://www.celiac.ca/gluten-related-disorders/celiac-disease/ 

Carroccio A;D’Alcamo A;Iacono G;Soresi M;Iacobucci R;Arini A;Geraci G;Fayer F;Cavataio F;La Blasca F;Florena AM;Mansueto P; (n.d.). Persistence of nonceliac wheat sensitivity, based on long-term follow-up. Gastroenterology. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28365444/ 

Fasano A. et al. Divergence of gut permeability and mucosal immune gene expression in two gluten-associated conditions: celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. BMC Medicine. 2011.

Professional, C. C. medical. (n.d.). Gluten intolerance: Symptoms, test, non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/21622-gluten-intolerance 


Learn more about celiac disease in this post we published a few days ago.