Celiac disease has been around for thousands of years, but research now tells us that gluten sensitivity is a separate diagnosis. The Center for Celiac Research estimates that 6 percent of our population, about 18 million people, is sensitive to gluten and nearly 1 out of every 133 Americans suffer from celiac disease. So what’s the difference between the two conditions?

A recent study out of the University of Maryland Medical School found that the characteristic intestinal permeability present with celiac disease is generally not present with gluten sensitivity. The study also found that many of the markers or signs in the small intestine that show up in celiac are not the same in patients with gluten sensitivity, making gluten sensitivity harder to diagnose.
Celiac disease primarily has symptoms involving the digestive system, including diarrhea, constipation, weight loss, abdominal pain, chronic fatigue, weakness, malnutrition, and other gastrointestinal problems.

Gluten sensitivity usually manifests itself outside of the digestive system, resulting in symptoms like low energy, skin rashes, numbness in the extremities, fibromyalgia, brain fog, abdominal pain, muscle and joint paint, abdominal pain, and problems with coordination.

While there may be some overlap between the two, it’s important to note that these conditions represent a large portion of our population. Many common health issues may have been misdiagnosed. The real culprit could be gluten.

If you suffer from these symptoms and aren’t finding relief, you may want to talk to your healthcare professional about blood testing and intestinal biopsies needed for diagnosis of celiac disease. During this time, you will want to switch to a gluten-free diet, as you may have gluten sensitivity – not celiac disease – and need to find relief.

As we’ve noted, a gluten-free lifestyle is easy to manage and can be incredibly satisfying. To learn more about gluten sensitivity, celiac disease, and the gluten-free lifestyle, check out our Gluten Resources section.