When I wrote an article about celiac disease a number of years ago, little did I know that one day, a close family member would be diagnosed with it.
At the time, my family member’s symptoms—which included chronic diarrhea and weight loss—had been so severe for so long that she and her husband were convinced the culprit was a cancer that had eluded detection.
Thankfully, a specialist in internal medicine put the pieces together. After adopting a celiac-appropriate diet, my relative rapidly began to recover. She went from feeling that life was barely worth living to enjoying life again.
In short, celiac disease is a topic that’s close to my heart. So I was delighted last year when the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation asked me to write an article about the difference between celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. (Gluten is the protein that poses problems for people with celiac.)
Strictly speaking, celiac is not a food allergy or intolerance.
In celiac disease, eating foods containing a specific protein prompts the individual’s immune (infection-fighting) system to attack the lining of the small intestine.
In a food allergy, the immune system also unleashes an attack on the individual’s own body. It pumps out chemicals that can cause a wide range of symptoms. These including hives, swelling of the face, lips or tongue, breathing problems, and a dangerous drop in blood pressure.
In fact, a severe allergic reaction to a food, known as anaphylaxis, can be life-threatening.
Still, many people don’t understand how serious the consequences can be if someone with celiac disease or a food allergy accidentally consumes the offending substance.
For a more comprehensive explanation of what a food allergy is, check out this post: ‘What is a Food Allergy?’
You can also learn more about how celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity differ by reading this post.