The phrases Gluten Sensitivity and Celiac Disease are often used interchangeably. However, research has shown that they should not be used as synonyms. In fact, they are significantly different. Individuals with gluten sensitivity often experience nerve damage, headaches, joint pain, inflammation, and other uncomfortable symptoms. 

Before understanding the differences between gluten sensitivity and celiac disease, gluten must be defined. A textbook response is that gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. However, we now know that gluten is found in hundreds of different compounds and is better defined as a mixture found in all grains. 

Gluten Sensitivity

Gluten sensitivity is an intolerance and not an immune response. This intolerance stems from the inability to digest gluten. The inability to digest food or gluten has a higher connection to the gastrointestinal tract and a complication within the small intestine. Although gluten sensitivity is not celiac disease, patients who have a gluten sensitivity still have a positive response to a gluten-free diet. Gluten sensitivity is fairly common due to increased cross-breeding and genetically modified grains being used to create gluten products. Approximately 60-70% of individuals who think they have celiac disease are gluten sensitive. 

Gluten sensitivity is a state of genetics, not a disease. Gluten sensitivities can be correlated as a  triggering factor in certain diseases, one of them being celiac. Other proven conditions gluten sensitivity has a studied connection to includes autoimmune disorders, osteoporosis, neuropathy, and infertility. 

A condition highly related to gluten sensitivity is intestinal permeability. Gluten intolerance can contribute to gut dysbiosis leading to a hyper permeable intestinal wall. With the intestinal wall being overly permeable, nutrients, such as gluten are able to slide out into the bloodstream. With excess nutrients in the bloodstream, the body begins to attack these molecules, creating an acquired allergy or autoimmune disease. 

Celiac Disease

Celia disease is the response of an immunological reaction to gluten. Similar to other diseases, the onset of celiac disease is exposure to specific triggers in the genetics and environmental surroundings. Those with celiac disease have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease of the small intestine caused by gluten-induced damage. 

Patients with celiac disease thrive on a truly gluten-free diet. It is important to note that those with conditions linked to gluten sensitivities and celiac disease, benefit from a gluten-free diet as humans are not necessarily made to digest gluten. 

Classic Symptoms:

  • Weight Loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach Pain
  • Bloating
  • Vomiting

“Gluten-Free Diet” vs A True Gluten-Free Diet

A standard “Gluten-Free Diet” is to avoid foods that contain or are made with wheat, barley, rye, and occasionally oats. This diet is extremely inconsistent and shows little results or improvement in patients with celiac disease. The inconsistency comes from research stating oats can be included and other studies showing they should not. Over the course of 16 months, a study was performed on diagnosed individuals with celiac disease observing their symptoms and reactions while on a “Gluten-Free Diet”. Over this period, 92% did not have normalization in their small intestine or a reduction of symptoms. Proving that this “gluten-Free Diet” is not completely gluten-free and they were still being exposed to multiple triggers. 

The gut replaces its tissues every 2-7 days, completing repairing its lining frequently. If the diet was truly gluten-free those participating in the study would have sen results in a matter of days to weeks. 

A True Gluten-Free Diet will include the elimination of wheat, barley, rye, oats, grains, corn, and processed/cans foods despite the “gluten-free” label.  The reason for the extensive list of elimination foods is because many over the counter foods contain cross-contamination and are made with other types of grains that have not yet been studied. Grains are proven to have gluten inside as that is their main source of fuel to feed themselves and germinate. Those who perform a truly gluten-free diet need to be aware of the over the counter medications they take and cross-reference them with the active ingredients list. Many medications include grains as a filler.

Going truly gluten-free may prove to be challenging at first but the benefits individuals see are worth every second.  By going gluten-free patients with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities reduce symptoms. If you experience uncomfortable symptoms, it is important to be tested for gluten sensitivities, celiac, and begin a truly gluten-free diet for optimal results. – Kenna Vaughn, Senior Health Coach 


Osborne, Peter. “Gluten Certification.” 7 May 2020, Functional Medicine University , .

The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal, and nervous health issues or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. We use functional health protocols to treat injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Our office has made a reasonable attempt to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. We also make copies of supporting research studies available to the board and or the public upon request. To further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900

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The information herein on "Gluten Sensitivity or Celiac Disease?" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, or licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.

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Our information scope is limited to Chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, contributing etiological viscerosomatic disturbances within clinical presentations, associated somatovisceral reflex clinical dynamics, subluxation complexes, sensitive health issues, and/or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions.

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