Celiac disease affects the small intestine and slows the absorption of nutrients from foods. People who suffer from celiac disease have developed allergies to gluten, a protein that is found in wheat, rye and barley. Gluten is used as a thickener in sauces, soups and ice cream and is the protein that helps bread rise when it is baked.
The main difference between a wheat allergy and Celiac disease is that with a wheat allergy, the afflicted suffers from unpleasant side effects and their energy is drained, but that is the extent of their suffering. A person with Celiac disease ends up having their small intestine lining damaged or destroyed as the body’s immune system reacts to gluten being in the person’s system. The immune system senses the body is being attacked and proceeds to destroy the villi, small, fingerlike protrusions that line the intestinal wall and allows the body to absorb nutrients.
Without villi, the body has a very difficult time absorbing minerals and nutrients and the person suffering from this disease can become malnourished. This can lead to many different other ailments and if not treated can end up causing liver, kidney, heart failure and chronic weakness. For people with Celiac disease, a gluten free diet is necessary.
Celiac disease is generally thought to be genetic and can be activated after surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, viral infections or stress. It is usually passed along generations although it can skip generations and frequently does. There is no real way of telling if a person has Celiac disease until it manifests itself, although blood tests can identify if one has the disease once they start to exhibit symptoms.
A wheat allergy is different in that the symptoms usually include some sort of physical suffering, but not lasting damage. Symptoms can include excessive gas, nausea, skin ailments, rashes and many other unpleasant conditions. When the person cuts out wheat and wheat based products the symptoms usually disappear with no long term problems.
Doctors and scientists have long investigated the link between wheat allergies and Celiac disease. There are some hypotheses that suggest that wheat intolerance or allergies could be the stress trigger which activates Celiac disease. There are other lines of thought that Celiac disease is caused by eating gluten and it is the Celiac disease that triggers the symptoms of wheat intolerance or allergies.
It is very difficult to know which is true, as both have similar symptoms and Celiac disease literally can cause hundreds of symptoms that may not readily be associated with either condition. The best advice for someone who thinks they might be wheat intolerant is to get tested for Celiac disease after their initial diagnosis. It is important to determine both, however because the longer Celiac disease is left untreated, the greater the risk of malnutrition and/or organ damage. If a person thinks they are wheat intolerant, or are wheat intolerant, they should get a blood test to see if they have Celiac disease, just to make sure.