The Difference between Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity
A traditional gluten free diet eliminates the primary documented glutens which are directly related to
Celiac disease. This would mean elimination of wheat, rye, and barley, oats, spelt and kamut. This
would also mean elimination of the various forms of wheat like farina, semolina, wheat germ, durum,
couscous and bran. There are also hidden sources of wheat in other products – examples of some are soy
sauce, certain creamed soups, hot dogs and processed meats, and beer. Replacements for those
eliminated items are the ‘lesser’ or supposed no-gluten (gliadin) versions are consumed. Examples of
some of those items would be corn, rice, buckwheat, and quinoa. There are also uses of bean flours and
vegetable starches, such as tapioca and potato to be used to ‘replace’ the wheat like products in our
processed goods of breads, pasta, cookies and pastries.
For those who understand the plant families – it is important to clarify that any plant that falls within the
grasses family, sub-classes of monocot and dicot all possess some form of gluten – the sticky protein that
is part of the grain/seed.
Monocots have 2 groups of species – and each of these have similar ‘glutens’ which have been known to
precipitate irritation in gluten sensitive folks:
1. Wheat, Rye, Barley
2. Rice, Oats, Corn, Sorghum, Millet, Teff
Dicots also have 3 groups of species and the jury is out on whether they really have impact to gluten
sensitive folks similar to their Monocot brethren:
1. Buckwheat, Rhubarb (fruits). Buckwheat is a seed that is related to rhubarb plant and has been
generally well tolerated by those who have issues with wheat.
2. Quinoa, Spinach
As for the True Gluten Free diet, it is essentially the removal of all grains from the individuals’
consumption. The diet would consist of a more ‘paleo’ or caveman-style dietary scope. The diet would
consist of organic meats and free range poultry, wild caught fish, organic fruits, vegetables, nuts, nongrain
based seeds and beans which one is not allergic to. Our human genome was geared around the
consumption of raw/cooked meats and foraging for plants in their various forms – tubers, nut, seed, fruit,
gourd or vegetable.
Following this truly gluten free diet is best done in parallel with supplementation to support the healing of
the gastrointestinal lining and mucosa to ensure better absorption and processing of nutrients from the
foods. Additionally it is best to avoid the ‘gluten free’ processed substitutes to mitigate any and all
potential cross-contamination or accidental exposure to a glutinous product.
Describe the differences between gluten sensitivity and celiac disease
The current definition of Gluten Sensitivity is not clear and focuses around the immune reaction to the
protein glutens found in wheat, barley, and rye. Depending on which allergist you speak to it can also
include the restriction of oats or not. The phrase has also been used synonymously with celiac disease
and that is not correct either. Most doctors do not even acknowledge there is such as thing as a Gluten
More realistically and from personal experience, Gluten Sensitivity is a condition stemming from genetic
origins and gets worse over time. This sensitivity does not show up like a traditional allergic reaction
(IgG or IgE) and has been known to weaken immunity. The glutens in the foods we eat destabilize the
gastrointestinal mucosal layer, allowing gaps (leaky gut) for the irritants to permeate the bloodstream. For
those folks who have genetic potentials for this, when the gluten when consumed, it results in abnormal
immune responses. This accumulation of irritants and its resulting antibody reactions has been shown to
triggers diseases. The sensitivity may not be the primary or sole cause of a disease as it can be a
contributing factor to it.
Celiac is one of many diseases that can be triggered from the Gluten Sensitivity condition. Celiac also
has genetic origins and when coupled with environmental exposures (other dietary and lifestyle issues)
becomes are more debilitating disease.
It can be said that you can be gluten sensitive individual, and not have Celiac disease; however if you
have Celiac disease, you do have gluten sensitivity as well. The public and other doctors still have a good
deal to learn about both.
Laura Keiles, PMP, ND, HHC
Keiles Wellness Care
Thank you Dr. Keiles and Welcome to the Gluten Free Society family of certified health care practitioners!
Learn more about the difference between gluten sensitivity and celiac disease below: