Celiac disease is one of the most commonly misdiagnosed diseases today, partly because its symptoms often resemble a variety of other diseases. One of the most common misperceptions of Celiac disease is that it is a food allergy to wheat or gluten. But, Celiac disease refers specifically to an autoimmune disorder that is triggered when an individual consumes gluten.
What is gluten? Gluten is a specific kind of protein that is found in rye, wheat and barley. And, this is the substance that causes symptoms in patients suffering from wheat allergy and with Celiac disease. So, with similar symptoms, how do you know the difference between a wheat allergy and Celiac disease?
Symptoms of Celiac Disease
Individuals can have Celiac their whole lives in dormancy, with symptoms not arising until something triggers it. Some of the more common triggers include severe stress or trauma, surgery, sever infection or pregnancy. The symptoms of Celiac disease vary greatly, and can include the following:
- Bloating and stomach pain
- Heartburn or indigestion
- Chronic diarrhea
- Joint and bone pains
These are just a few of the primary symptoms of Celiac disease. And, if any of these symptoms are experienced on an ongoing basis, it is important to discuss them with your physician.
Wheat Allergy Symptoms
While there are a number of possible symptoms to patients suffering from a wheat allergy, the most common symptoms include:
- Swollen throat or tongue
The Bodies Response to Gluten- Note the Differences
While both allergies and Celiac disease are linked to gluten, the way in which the body responds to gluten is important to note as there are several key differences.
Anti-Bodies-When the body comes into direct contact with gluten, in an allergic reaction, the body would create immunoglobulin E antibodies. But, if the person has Celiac disease and comes into contact with the same gluten, their body would create immunoglobulin A and anti-tissue transglutaminase.
The Body’s Response- When someone has a food allergy to wheat, their body will respond to the allergy by releasing chemicals that cause the body to show symptoms. But, when a patient who is suffering with Celiac disease comes into contact with the same substance, their body will attack itself, generally in the area of the small intestine.
Response to Drugs Medical Testing- Most allergy patients will utilize some form of histamine to treat their symptoms. But, this same drug will not alleviate the symptoms that are shown in Celiac patients.
To test for allergies, your physician will either use a blood test to determine if there are specific antibodies present within the blood or they will perform a scratch test on the skin. To determine whether you have Celiac disease, your physician will first perform a full examination. Then, they will generally test your blood for specific antibodies; tissue transglutaminase antibody and endomysial antibody. The final stage in testing and the only way to determine fully if you have Celiac disease is to perform a gut biopsy, looking for damage caused by the disease.