People who react badly to gluten and those who suffer from coeliac disease sometimes display similar symptoms, such as diarrhoea and fatigue, hence the confusion between which condition an individual might have.
“If you eat gluten and have an immediate reaction, such as diarrhoea, that’s more likely to be gluten intolerance than coeliac disease, which is a slow process that you don’t tend to feel immediately,” says Dr Sarmed Sami, a gastroenterologist at Mayo Clinic Healthcare in London, United Kingdom.
That said, it is important to be tested in case the reactions are being caused by the more serious coeliac disease, according to him.
Coeliac disease requires a sufferer to abstain from eating foods containing gluten, while intolerance usually allows some leeway.
“For most people, there is no need to completely eliminate foods containing gluten and no proven benefit from doing so,” he said.
Gluten-free versions of foods are usually pricier and contain more fat and sugar than regular variants.
“In gluten intolerance, there is no cell damage or inflammation.
“It’s more of a sensitivity,” he explained, comparing it to reactions in some people to onions and dairy, the latter of which is known as lactose intolerance.
Just as gluten intolerance should not always mean ditching all foods with gluten, the lactose variant does not always require a person to avoid dairy products.
Coeliac disease, however, is an autoimmune condition where gluten damages cells in the gut.
This in turn causes diarrhoea, fatigue, bloating and weight loss.
And while the likes of rice, sorghum, soy and quinoa are okay to eat, most bread and cakes are out of the question, as are beer and stout brewed using barley. – dpa