What's the difference between gluten intolerance, sensitivity and allergy?

Are you one of the approximately 20% of consumers who has purchased a gluten-free product? If so, why? Is it because you think you are completely intolerant to gluten? Or do you have an allergy to products that contain it?

Are you really as sensitive to gluten as you think? And what is the difference between intolerance, sensitivity and allergy? Is gluten to blame for conditions as varied as asthma, arthritis, autism, epilepsy and depression?

What science so far knows--and there’s a lot still unknown--about gluten is that three separate medical problems exist when it comes to gluten: celiac disease, wheat allergy and intolerance to gluten.

Celiac Disease



Considering that celiac disease is a very strong immune reaction, whereby gluten binds to the small intestinal wall, causing white blood cells to freak out and overreact, destroying the part of the intestine (villi) that helps absorb nutrients into the bloodstream, you’d think that this is a sure sign of an allergy. But celiac disease is not a true allergy (why it’s not in just a bit); it can be considered a severe intolerance that can cause abdominal cramping, diarrhea, iron deficiency and other problems.

Approximately 3 million Americans are believed to have celiac disease, but many of them are undiagnosed. Sometimes, people with celiac disease are misdiagnosed as having irritable bowel syndrome or other conditions. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder, meaning the body attacks itself, which is not necessarily the case with an allergy.

Wheat allergy

Wheat, along with soy, peanuts, milk, shellfish, tree-nuts and eggs, is one of the most common food allergies. What classifies a food allergy is when an antibody (specifically an immunoglobulin E or IgE) attacks an antigen (which the body perceives as a foreign invader, in this case gluten, the main protein in wheat).

A true wheat allergy, considered rare, can include any of the following symptoms: rashes, wheezing (or what’s called ‘Baker’s asthma’), hives, sneezing, or in extreme cases, anaphylaxis.

Unlike testing for celiac disease, which is considered quite accurate and involves a blood test and a biopsy of the small intestine to verify the destruction of the nutrient-absorbing villi (called villous atrophy), testing for wheat allergy is not as reliable because the testing protocol also tests for other food allergies; false positives are sometimes the outcome.

Gluten Intolerance

Also called Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, gluten intolerance is neither an autoimmune disorder like Celiac nor is it an allergenic response that emits an IgE reaction. And unlike testing protocols that exist for celiac and wheat allergy, though as unreliable as wheat allergy testing might be, non-severe gluten intolerance (anything other than celiac disease) simply relies on the observations of the subject after consumption of gluten.

Feel bloated, sluggish or mentally foggy after eating gluten? Convinced this happens nearly all the time after consuming the spongy protein that makes bread rise? You may indeed then be intolerant or sensitive to gluten.

Listening to your body is the wise. Whether or not you receive scientific validity that you are gluten intolerant or allergic to wheat, if you frequently observe that after eating gluten, negative side effects result, then it might be a good idea to refrain from gluten, though keep in mind that it could be the sugars in wheat products--not the gluten itself--that is causing the problems.

Miracle Noodle: naturally gluten-free

Many gluten-free products have conventional counterparts that contain gluten. Think muffins, cookies, brownies and other pastries. But Miracle Noodle, the only shirataki calorie-free and carb-free all-natural pasta substitute, is naturally gluten-free.

Derived from the root of a species of yam plant, Miracle Noodle is comprised almost entirely of fiber, which naturally contains no gluten.

Though many people who have opted to go gluten-free might not even have a true allergy or have a severe intolerance to wheat, or one of the main proteins in it (gluten), no doubt they feel better on a gluten-free diet. And that has to count for something. For pasta lovers, it’s comforting to know that there’s naturally gluten-free Miracle Noodle to get your noodle fix.

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