circle with line through itIs there a difference between the terms ‘Celiac’ and ‘Gluten Intolerance’?

Though gluten tolerance is a symptom of Celiac disease, the latter refers to a damaged intestinal mucosa brought about by a inherited gene, and avoiding glutens can help control the disease.

On the other hand, some individuals can have gluten intolerance without having Celiac disease and damage to the intestines.

What is Celiac Disease in more detail, please

Celiac disease (CD), also called Celiac Sprue or Autoimmune Gluten Intolerance, appears to be a genetically inherited disorder which sets off an autoimmune attack in the body. In other words, if you have it, you probably have ancestors or family members with it, too. This attack causes atrophy damage in the small intestine, and that, in turn, results in poor absorption of nutrients in the food you eat. The malabsorption can lead to malnutrition and other maladies. Some CD individuals can have less severe symptoms than others, and vice versa.

What causes CD to show its face?

Stress can cause Celiac to reveal itself, and eating certain types of storage protein, aka gluten, can set off the autoimmune response. Those glutens are found in wheat, rye, and barley or other related grains. Some oats can be problematic, as they can be contaminated with wheat during the processing. You’d want the purest form of oats you can find, since purely oats by themselves aren’t a problem. The Celiac genetic tendency can also be triggered by oral thrush, vaginal infections and intestinal Candidiasis, all which contain the same protein sequence as wheat gluten.

Some patients find themselves with manifestations of Celiac Disease after the birth of a baby; others after an infection or surgery. It’s all over the map.

If one with Celiac has issues with pure oats, rice or corn, that points to a problem with those grains, not necessarily to your Celiac.

Who has it?

The Celiac Sprue Association website states that up to 1 in 133 have CD, and only 3% of those have been diagnosed! Other estimates are around 1 in 2000. There is also evidence that people of Irish or Swedish descent have the highest incidence. It is much more prevalent in lighter skinned individuals than in darker skin and in Asians. And many thyroid patients have it.

What are the symptoms of Celiac and possibly of just non-Celiac gluten intolerance?

muscle cramps
smelly gas
diarrhea or even constipation
weight loss
chronic fatigue
chronic inflammation
premature osteoporosis
bone pain
projective vomiting
migraine headaches
tingling of hands
difficulty walking
lactose intolerance

If the autoimmune attack started early in one’s childhood, it can result in a short stature, plus enamel problems on the teeth.

It is not uncommon to be misdiagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, spastic colon, and Crohn’s disease. CD also affects the central nervous system and can be similar to symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. You will have CD your entire life, and it can wax and wane.

Read one mother’s description of her daughters various symptoms of Celiac here.

Are there non-GI symptoms of Celiac?

Fatigue and weakness
vitamin/mineral deficiencies
headaches (including migraines)
joint/bone pain
heavy arms and legs
sore feet
mood disorders
inability to concentrate
spontaneous abortions
intrauterine growth retardation
abnormal menstrual cycles
dental enamel deficiencies and irregularities
ataxia (bad balance)
nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy)
respiratory problems or out of breath (including asthma and bronchial)
canker sores (apthous ulcers)
lactose intolerance
eczema/psoriasis (skin conditions–not to be confused with dermatitis herpetiformis, a dead giveaway for Celiac),
rosacea (a skin disorder)
Hashimoto’s disease
Sjogren’s syndrome
Lupus erythematosus, and other autoimmune disorders
early onset osteoporosis
hair loss (alopecia)
bruising easily
low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
muscle cramping
swelling and inflammation
night blindness

(Some symptoms courtesy of “hypothyroidceliac”.)

How is it confirmed in the doctor’s office?

Internet resources mention that the three key tests are the anti-endomysium antibody (lgA EMA) and anti-gliadin antibody (lgA & IgG), and tissue transglutaminase (tTG IgA) or anti-reticulin.

But patient recommended tests are simply the total IgA serum and Ttg IgA (the Ttg test is not accurate in children under about 3 years of age, since their bodies do not start to develop the ttg antibodies until they are a little older). If a person is IgA deficient, these two tests won’t work and other testing will need to be done. A gastroenterologist can also take a small intestine tissue biopsy, if necessary.

Some patients strongly recommended is the stool test from, since the above can fail to show it in some patients. But others feel it’s not as accurate as the biopsy, or the Ttg test.

REMEMBER THAT IT’S IMPORTANT to continue consuming gluten before the test to detect the problem.

How do I treat my Celiac Disease or non-Celiac gluten intolerance?

Once it’s confirmed, or even before the official diagnosis, patients go on a total gluten-free diet, which means eliminating any food products containing wheat, rye, barley and even oats, the latter which can have traces of wheat on them. But you have to be careful, because even other products can have gluten, including soy sauce from your favorite Chinese food restaurant and many processed foods. Believe it or not, some cosmetics contain gluten, as well as some household cleaners. Once you eliminate gluten from your diet, give the removal of Celiac/gluten intolerance symptoms time. No medication works well.

Bottom line: heal your leaky gut!

Says a patient in 2012: Alba pharmaceuticals is working on a medication which has been through 2 stages of human trials–not sure how it is supposed to work. It is a zonulin antagonist. Zonulin is the chemical in our bodies that keeps the “gates” in the small intestine open–allowing large particle of food into the blood stream, basically. I guess you could say it causes leaky gut. Celiacs have more zonulin than other people.

Joseph Murray, MD, PhD, who has been one of the leading US physicians in the diagnosis of Celiac disease plus Dermatitis Herpetiformis (the latter common for those with Celiac and treated with Dapsone), states that the damage done to your intestines with CD came be reversed in most cases by avoiding the gluten. (Janie wonders if being on desiccated thyroid, which promotes a stronger immune system, can help promote that healing when gluten is avoided, as well, as compared to those who are on thyroxine or who are undiagnosed due to their doctor’s over-reliance on the TSH range.)

Learn about the GAPS diet here.

Why is Celiac Disease mentioned on this thyroid website?

Because autoimmune diseases can go hand in hand, and there are a percentage of Hashimoto’s patients who also have Celiac! Conversely, those with Celiac have a higher risk of having hypothyroid (besides diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis). Estimates are that 10-14% of hypothyroids have Celiac, and it might be higher. It is proposed that if Celiacs control their disease by avoiding glutens, they can either stop a thyroid autoimmune attack, or prevent it from occurring!

Another important reason to mention Celiac in relationship to thyroid disease: when you are undertreated due to being on thyroxine meds like Synthroid, Levoxyl, Eltroxin, etc, or if you are undiagnosed due to a doctor’s over-reliance on the TSH range, your immune system is compromised, and that can lead to the very conditions which can trigger the autoimmune response, including oral thrush, vaginal infections or intestinal Candidiasis. These three can also develop due to an adrenal insufficiency.

Can there be other disorders that go along with Celiac?

Dermatitis Herpetiformis (DH) can often go hand-in-hand as a manifestation of Celiac. DH is a chronic and extremely itchy skin condition which is manifested by red bumps which can erupt into blisters, and those are mostly found on your elbows, knees, back, buttocks and even the scalp, though they can occasionally be found elsewhere on your body. Many patients with DH see it start when they are young adults. Like Celiac, it is controlled by avoiding gluten in your diet. Iodine in your diet can make it worse, according to some sources, so if you are supplementing with iodine, you might want to pay atttention if it’s affecting you or not.

Check out the Celiac Sprue Association website where you can also get recipes to learn how to cook without wheat and related products.

Click here to read an excellent overview of Celiac by Dr Joseph Murray, one of the leading US physicians in the diagnosis of celiac disease (CD) and dermatitis herpetiformis (DH)

One patient states: I prefer to be a follower of Dr. Peter Green who is supposed to be one of the foremost authorities on celiac today. I also have a lot of respect for Dr. Alessio Fassano.

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