Gluten intolerance is a broad term used to describe people who have issues with eating gluten. The term includes people with celiac disease as well as those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. While they are different conditions, both involve the same treatment – the elimination of gluten from the diet. For those with celiac disease, however, the strict avoidance of gluten is absolutely imperative while those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity simply should avoid or limit gluten.
Celiac disease is when gluten causes the body’s immune system to attack the lining of the small intestine. It is categorized as an autoimmune disorder, meaning, when gluten is ingested, the body attacks itself. Specifically, the body will attack the the lining of the small intestine and destroy the villi, which are the tiny finger-like projections that protrude from the lining of the intestine. With celiac disease, the gluten must actually be ingested orally into the system for the reaction to occur.
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity, on the other hand, results in an adverse response or stress response by the body when gluten is introduced. It is argued by some researchers that non-celiac gluten sensitivity can and often does involve an immune system response but, unlike celiac, the immune system attacks the gluten rather than attacking the body itself. In its attack, the body will fight off the gluten through inflammation. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is generally referred to as a gluten intolerance or being gluten intolerant. It results in many of the same and different symptoms as celiac disease with the main difference being that celiac disease causes damage to the villi of the small intestine whereas non-celiac gluten sensitivity does not.