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Ask the Doc: Difference between celiac disease & gluten intolerance?

Posted on May 26th, 2007 by Alison Read 10 Comments - Add Your Own »

questionmarkgreen1.jpgQ. What is the difference between celiac disease and gluten intolerance? Is one more serious than the other?

A. The strict definition of celiac disease — positive antibodies to gliadin, intestinal endomysium, and tissue transglutaminase, together with the presence of HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8 genes and an intestinal biopsy that shows at least 20-25 CD3 cells per 100 epithelial cells — will account for about 75-80% of all those sensitive to gluten. It must be noted, however, that there are injurious grain proteins that cause damage and produce symptoms by mechanisms that are as yet obscure. As well, many other gene markers for grain-mediated injury have been described, thus placing many into the category of gluten intolerant, but not truly having celiac disease. We do know the consequences of untreated celiac disease — an increased risk for lymphomas and other solid tumors, along with a host of associated auto-immune, neurological and endocrine diseases. It is unclear whether other people who are not celiacs but clearly cannot tolerate gluten are at risk for any other associated diseases. If you test negative for the strict criteria for celiac disease, but still cannot tolerate gluten, there is no harm in keeping to a gluten-free diet.
Health and happiness,
Dr. Aron

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  1. Our daughter has celiac disease and does very well eating GF. Our problem is she is very hungry most of the time – especially when she wakes up in the morning – she just can’t get full.

    She eats protein before she goes to sleep and sometimes gets up and eats a snack a couple of hours before she gets up for the day – still wakes up starving
    do you have any suggestions?
    She is thin, 21 years old. thank you

  2. Was she recently diagnosed? If she has been recently diagnosed then it is normal for her to be hungry for a while until her body adjusts.

  3. Try guacamole from Chipotle. I too am always hungry and that is what works the best for me. I buy 3-4 guacamole servings to go every time I go in and eat it over the next few days. Good luck!

  4. i’ve been tested for wheat an blood test was negative. could i still be allergic to gluten or have celiac disease? i was also diagnosed with mastocytic enterocolitis an my gastro doctor does not know alot about this disease.where do i go from here?

  5. I was born not bein able to eat Gluten but they never diagnosed me as a celiac. they use to always say when you get older it sometimes leaves the body. When i got older they couldn’t find it in my blood and told me it was okay for me to eat it. But when i eat it i itch inside my body like in my blood my whole body goes red and i itch and itch like crazy and i get diahorrea and stomach problems. Yet the doctors still won’t diagnose me as celiac. I was diagnosed like 20 years ago in those days it was rare. i do still have a gluten free diet and my body is fine then but i am not able to get any help from a dietician or anything because they don’t think of me as celiac. I am also lactose and starch intolerant too.

  6. I have recently been diagnoed with ceoliac disease.. I’m 20 years old, fairly tall and thin.

    I can’t seem to find anything that tastes at least half decent that is gluten free that also doesn’t cost a fortune.
    I live out of home, work full time and also study so i do not have that much time to cook meals for breakfast lunch and dinner. I also do not have that much money to spend on food. Im also a very picky eater (for some reason just do not like alot of foods) so leaves me sometimes very frustrated as i am always up late cooking meals for the next day or trying to think of what i could have for lunch while i am out or what to buy at teh grocery store.

    I have since lost alot of weight and feel so drained. I have been taking just some suppliments that my doctor suggested but nothing seems to be working..

    I’v also researched so many gluten free little bakeries and shops, and joined the ceolic society of Australia but everything is just too expensive..

    Seems its a lose loose situation… Any suggestions??

  7. Morgan,

    Try looking at some cooking websites. one of my favorites is If you go there and click healthy recipes, go down to related categories and click free of,gluten is 2nd on the list. then the beautiful thing pops up to let you search 9,179 recipes. here is the link:

    many are very quick. i suggest the gravy from sausage biscuits and gravy recipe and some gluten free bisquick mix.
    cornstarch, milk, water and butter is all you need besides sausage. #329127

    also there are many programs out there for the computer or your phone that you can download so you can choose gluten free items at the store and many are things you were buying before. Many name brand foods just do not have it listed. Although walmart is fairly good about having it listed on their store brand stuff.

  8. my wonderful doctor gave me blood tests for allergies. I tested positive for wheat, barley, rye, oats, AND rice (also tomatoes, lentils, scallops, and clams). I didn’t have to suffer through an intestinal test. I was negative for celiac in a blood test. glutenfree flours cost too much–I get food stamps and SSA disability. Any ideas?

  9. gerry, your daughter needs to incorporate healthy natural fats into her diet. They will satiate her as well as support healthy digestion (and many other benefits). Butter, ghee (if she is lactose intolerant), coconut oil, olive oil, flax oil (in homemade salad dressings). And yes (as Brynn suggested) definitely avocado or guacamole for one of the healthiest saturated fats on the planet.

  10. Hi I’m on a gluten free diet but suffer terrible with wind… Can’t you recommend anything I could do to prevent this
    Many thanks
    Elaine wylley

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