Celiac Disease, Gluten Intolerance and Early Diagnosis

It’s common to come across gluten free choices in stores or restaurants, but doctors suggest that a large amount of children who experience gluten intolerance are also likely to have celiac disease.

celiac disease vs gluten intolerance

Pediatric gastroenterologist, Dr. Viraine Weerasooriya, from Golisano Children’s Hospital, Southwest Florida, states that if a young person experiences diarrhea, stomach ache or bloating after having eaten gluten, there are some questions which could be asked to determine whether the child has gluten intolerance or actually has celiac disease.

What’s Celiac Disease?

“Celiac disease is an immune mediated condition where your body has become sensitive to gluten. But it’s specifically to the gastrointestinal tract. You can develop small bowel disease related to gluten sensitivity. It’s because your immune system starts attacking your intestines.”

While both of these conditions show intolerance to gluten, doctors state that patients may have gluten intolerance and not have celiac disease. “People are at risk for other complications of celiac disease if it’s not treated appropriately,” said Dr. Weerasooriya.

The Importance of Early Diagnosis

While, over time, an intolerance to gluten can develop, people are born with celiac disease.   If symptoms that appear during childhood are not treated, then children who have celiac disease could later develop bone problems, delayed growth or possibly neurologic problems.

Dr Weeasooriya stated, “In children who have celiac disease who are not treated appropriately or identified appropriately they are at risk for short stature, meaning not meeting their full height potential as well as delayed onset of puberty.”

Patients are able to be diagnosed and treated if they have celiac disease, however the treatment for gluten intolerance is only through a change in diet.  

At this time there is no testing for intolerance to gluten, just removing the offending property/ies which contain gluten and waiting to see if symptoms improve.

Celiac disease refers to a genetic disorder and may be progressive. If children experience gluten sensitivity they could be tested at just six months of age.