Gluten & Wheat Intolerance and Coeliac Disease

Gluten Intolerance may not be the whole story, wheat and grains could be the problem.

There is a lot of misunderstanding concerning wheat intolerance, gluten intolerance and coeliac disease. The symptoms of each can be very similar and hence the confusion.

Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance, Wheat Intolerance and Coeliac Disease

With any of these conditions, the presenting symptoms can be:    

  • Abdominal pain, flatulence (gas) and bloating
  • Diarrhoea or change in bowel habit
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Fluid retention
  • Aches and pains

Particularly with coeliac disease, there is a broad range of possible symptoms, such as weight loss, malnutrition and iron deficiency anaemia, which can make the diagnosis difficult.

Until recently, the terms gluten intolerance and coeliac disease were used interchangeably in medical literature. Research indicates that gluten intolerance has a broader scope than coeliac disease.

Coeliac disease is a permanent disorder and can affect genetically predisposed people of all ages. It is caused by a reaction to a gluten protein, gliadin, found in wheat, barley, rye and sometimes oats. The allergic reaction to gluten in the diet causes inflammation of the inner lining of the small intestine. It can lead to malabsorption of minerals and nutrients and hence malnutrition.

Gluten Intolerance and Coeliac Disease Test

There is a fairly simple test available for screening patients' blood for antigladin antibodies (AGA) to diagnose gluten intolerance.

Treatment for Gluten Intolerance and Coeliac Disease

Although there is no cure for the condition, the effective treatment is strict adherence to a gluten-free diet, which can prevent almost all complications of the disease. It requires a careful understanding and awareness of food items that contain gluten, as wheat and other grains are found in many staples as well as processed foods in our diet.

It is important to totally avoid gluten as studies have shown that continued use of gluten, for those suffering from coeliac disease, increases the chances of gastrointestinal cancer by 40 to 100 times that of the normal population.

Wheat Intolerance

Some people think that because they have a negative test for gluten intolerance, they can safely eat wheat or other grains, however, they can find that they still suffer symptoms. This is possible because they are intolerant to whole wheat and other common grains.

Wheat Intolerance Test

The most accurate way to test for wheat intolerance is by what is called "Elimination & Challenge". Avoiding the culprit for a recommended period of time and, once having seen a clearance of the symptoms, challenging the results by re-introducing the food.

However, unlike classic allergies, it is common to see that patients who are intolerant to wheat are also intolerant to several other food items, hence the need for specialist help in diagnosis and treatment. People who are intolerant to wheat often cannot tolerate oats, corn, barley, rye and other grains.

Treatment for Wheat Intolerance

Once an accurate diagnosis has been made, for many, with the advice and guidance we give them, avoidance is sufficient. If, however, omitting the food or foods from the diet is too difficult or impractical, we are able to offer desensitisation, a method of treatment which re-programmes the immune system to see the food not as an invader.

Contact us if you have further questions or to make an appointment for a consultation.