Unlike fat-free and low-carb diets of the past, gluten-free is not a fad. In fact, it’s a very concrete dietary restriction for many. Of course, the degree to which people follow gluten-free diets varies with their gluten tolerance. For some, any contact with gluten, however small, may trigger life-threatening responses. Those with a moderate intolerance may see changes in their skin or digestion. There are plenty of people who follow a gluten-free diet because it simply makes them feel better.
So when we talk about gluten-free, is there a significant difference between each of the terms we use? Heck yeah. We use guidelines set by The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center to clarify:
Gluten Intolerance: We use “gluten intolerance” when referring to the entire category of gluten issues: celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity and wheat allergy.
Celiac Disease: Celiac Disease is an inherited autoimmune disorder that affects the digestive process of the small intestine.
Non-celiac Gluten Sensitivity: Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (what many call “gluten intolerance”) causes the body to mount a stress response (often GI symptoms) different from the immunological response that occurs in those who have celiac disease (which most often causes intestinal tissue damage).
Wheat Allergy: As with most allergies, a Wheat Allergy causes the immune system to respond to a food protein because it considers it dangerous to the body when it actually isn’t. This immune response is often time-limited and does not cause lasting harm to body tissues.
(Information reprinted with permission from G-Free Foodie)