So you have received a diagnosis of Celiac Disease, a gluten intolerance, or a wheat allergy? What does that mean and where do you go from here?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder. People who are diagnosed with this disorder are unable to process foods containing gluten or more specifically the storage protein present in wheat, rye, barley, and in some cases oats. The inability of the body to process these types of food is due to the villi in the small intestine not being able to absorb the necessary nutrients into the bloodstream. It is a serious disorder and undiagnosed or untreated it has the possibility of causing long-term harm to the body.
The good news is that the damage to the villi is not permanent for someone with celiac disease. The villi regenerate every 72 hours as long as gluten is eliminated from the diet. This is why a gluten-free diet is so critical, and at this point in time it is the only known treatment for celiac disease. Once gluten is eliminated from the diet, the healing time of the villi will depend on how long the person has had celiac disease and how damaged they are. Research is being done, however, to see if there are other ways to manage this auto-immune disorder.
Fun Fact: Your small intestine is approximately 20 feet or 6 meters long and about an inch in diameter. It starts at your stomach and ends at the large intestine. If you laid it out, the surface area of the small intestine is the size of a tennis court.
A person suffering from gluten intolerance or non-celiac gluten sensitivity struggles with similar symptoms to those with celiac disease. While they will still deal with some intestinal discomfort, whether it be bloating or stomach pain, this intolerance generally does not cause long-term harm to the body
A person with a wheat allergy reacts to various proteins in wheat, including gluten. The immune response is generally temporary and does not usually cause any lasting harm to the small intestine. A wheat allergy can actually be outgrown, but this is not the case for celiac disease or a gluten intolerance. General symptoms of an allergy or intolerance to wheat are gastrointestinal issues, skin rashes, and hives.