Celiac Disease & Gluten Sensitivity

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is one of the most common autoimmune disorders and affects about 1 in 133 people. Common symptoms of the disease in adults can vary but typically include:

Short term symptoms:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal cramps 
  • Fatigue

The disease is a disorder in which the body cannot tolerate the gluten protein and ingestion of it triggers an immune reaction, causing inflammation of the lining of the small intestine.

Over time, if the problem remains unchecked, Celiac disease damages the small intestine so that it can’t properly absorb nutrients from food. This can result in:

Long term symptoms:

  • Iron deficiency
  • Diarrhea
  • Malnutrition
  • Bone or joint pain
  • Arthritis
  • Depression or Anxiety
  • Loss of tooth enamel
  • Tingling numbness in hands and feet
  • Seizures
  • Mouth sores

Diagnosing Celiac disease generally requires a blood test and a biopsy. The treatment for the disease is a completely gluten-free diet. This stops the harmful immune reaction in the gut and the symptoms that result. Following the diet also allows for healing of the intestinal lining.

What is the cause of Celiac disease?

Quite honestly: nobody really knows.

However some research is starting to shed some interesting light on the possible role of some common viral infections. See this good link.

Clearly, as long as the causes are not better understood, prevention and cure are rather difficult. We are left with minimising the symptoms through the avoidance of gluten.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found mostly in cereal grains like wheat, barley and rye and in certain hybrids of these grains. The protein is found in the grain's endosperm where it nourishes plant embryos during germination.

When the grains are harvested for consumption and ground into flour, the gluten protein affects the elasticity and chewiness of the dough used for baked goods. The protein doesn't dissolve very well in water, so when adding water to gluten, the proteins clusters together and form a sticky mass. These ingredients are present in many common foods including bread, pasta, cereals, dressings, sauces, cake, biscuits, most processed foods, alcohol and more. 

Not all grains contain gluten, though. Some examples of gluten-free grains are, millet, rice, buckwheat, amaranth and quinoa. Oats are also gluten-free, but can be contaminated during processing, However all grains are eliminated on the Paleo diet and this article covers the difference between gluten sensitivity and celiac disease.

Gluten Sensitivity  

Gluten intolerance is also called non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) and simply put, it means that your body doesn't perform well when gluten is ingested.

People with Gluten sensitivity have Celiac disease-like symptoms but they do not test positive for the disease. Their main symptoms are:

  • Bowel discomfort
  • Seasonal allergy symptoms
  • Headaches

These patients are then asked to remove all gluten from their diet and if their symptoms improve, they are usually diagnosed with Gluten sensitivity.


Celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity are medical conditions and types of food hypersensitivities that can be treated with the appropriate diet, either elimination of gluten or wheat. Working closely with your doctor and registered dietitian will help you get an accurate diagnosis and create a diet that supports your health and wellness. Remember too that a Paleo diet is highly nutritious and suitable for people both diagnosed with Celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.