I don't know about you, but when I first started hearing about celiac disease and wheat and gluten allergies and intolerance, I assumed they were all the same. Well, I was wrong. They're all treated essentially the same—remove wheat from the diet—but the ailments are actually quite different and it's important to know how they differ because of the ramifications if wheat isn't removed from one's diet.
Here's the basic difference...
Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition. The body's immune system starts destroying normal tissue in response to eating gluten. As a result, sufferers are at risk of not absorbing food correctly which in turn can lead to nutritional deficiencies that then cause other serious ailments such as anemia and osteoporosis. Celiac disease is an inherited condition so it's also something to keep an eye out for if you have family members who suffer from the condition.
A wheat allergy is like any other food allergy. The body reacts to wheat because it thinks it's trying to hurt the body even though it isn't. The body's response is usually relatively short-lived and doesn't cause lasting harm to the body. Wheat allergy symptoms can include hives or rash, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, sneezing, headaches, asthma or anaphylaxis. While anaphylaxis is less common, it is a potentially life-threatening reaction that can making breathing difficult and send the body into shock. Most children with wheat allergy frequently outgrow it by age 3 to 5.
Gluten-sensitivity or gluten-intolerance is more similar to an allergy, but not quite as severe. The body reacts to the gluten as if it's being stressed, usually in the form of gastrointestinal symptoms. No fun, but not life-threatening.
Celiac disease sufferers and those with wheat allergies can benefit from wearing medical IDs, especially in an emergency, since these patients shouldn't be given medications with gluten. Take a look at our pre-printed charms and dog tags and see what works for you!