The difference between gluten sensitivity and wheat intolerance

Updated at: Nov 03, 2015
The difference between gluten sensitivity and wheat intolerance

Gluten sensitivity and wheat allergy are often considered same conditions, but the two are quite different from each other.

Himanshu Sharma
Digestive DiseasesWritten by: Himanshu SharmaPublished at: Nov 03, 2015

It’s normal for people to mistake gluten sensitivity for wheat intolerance, and vice versa. This comes from the fact that both are types of gluten intolerance. But, it must be noted that they are different. Gluten intolerance is a broad term, which encompasses many gluten issues, including celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity and wheat allergy.



Non-celiac gluten sensitivity

The most common form of gluten intolerance, gluten sensitivity, causes the body to mount a stress response – mostly causing GI symptoms. In this condition, the flare up of symptoms does not cause tissue damage.

Symptoms of gluten sensitivity are similar to celiac disease, but they are accompanied by non-digestive issues such as numbness in extremities, headaches and joint pain. If you have gluten sensitivity, symptoms may appear anytime from one hour to a few days after consumption of gluten.


Wheat intolerance

In wheat intolerance, also known as wheat allergy, the immune system responds to a food protein which it considers dangerous for the body. This immune response is often time-limited and the effects last only a few hours.

Some common symptoms of wheat intolerance are rash, breathing difficulties, runny nose and digestive problems such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. If you have a family history of allergies, you are more likely to develop an allergy to wheat.



If you suspect that you have gluten sensitivity or wheat intolerance, you should visit your health care provider. A series of diagnostic tests can tell you if you have a sensitivity or allergy to gluten.

A blood test to measure antibodies accompanied by an endoscopic biopsy is done for the diagnosis of celiac disease. In the event of blood test and biopsy showing negative for celiac disease, the allergist will check you for a wheat allergy. If this comes out negative, gluten sensitivity is diagnosed by exclusion.


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