What is the difference between gluten intolerance, a wheat allergy and celiac disease?


Do you often Google ‘am I gluten intolerant’ or ‘do I have celiac disease?’ It can be a worry when you feel really unwell and it’s not your imagination, all three conditions have similar symptoms. We thought we would try and answer your questions by describing the conditions and their symptoms for you but please consult a doctor for an official diagnosis.

Do you often feel like you have an upset stomach and severe bloating? Gluten intolerance produces extremely similar symptoms to celiac disease. However, these symptoms are short-lived if you’re gluten intolerant. In someone with celiac disease, the reactions are long term and damaging to the body.


  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Stomach ache
  • Fatigue
  • Gas
  • Constipation
  • Nausea

You may notice a pattern of having these reactions when you eat certain foods, which may contain gluten. Keeping a food diary is a good way of matching up food to reactions. Some people then find that reducing gluten in their diet is sufficient; others have to remove it altogether. Each case is individual.

Gluten intolerance

Wheat Allergy

Do you experience a reaction to foods containing wheat? It could be an allergy. Those with a wheat allergy experience a reaction to foods containing a number of food proteins contained in wheat, including gluten. The symptoms are similar to gluten intolerance but this allergy can be outgrown. Unlike celiac disease, these reactions do not damage the small intestine unless the individual has a severe anaphylaxis reaction which can be life-threatening.


The reactions are similar to gluten intolerance and any other type of food allergy:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Nasal congestion
  • Rash
  • Breathing difficulties

Wheat allergies are usually treated with a wheat-free diet and/or antihistamines.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder causing individuals to react negatively to foods containing gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Unlike a gluten intolerance, celiac disease can cause damage to the small intestine lining. Without a diagnosis and appropriate treatment, individuals with celiac disease may suffer from the inability to absorb enough nutrients into the bloodstream.


There are signs that indicate the body isn’t digesting food properly including:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Bloating
  • Stomach pain
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation

There are some other symptoms which people might not associate with celiac disease such as itchy skin, headaches, joint ache and mouth ulcers among other things.

Celiacs usually completely remove gluten from their diet to try and manage the symptoms.

Celiac Disease

Here at GI Doctors, we specialise in diagnosing gastrointestinal conditions, many of which can be treated successfully following early diagnosis.

If you have any concerns about digestive disorders get in touch and we will help you get out of pain.

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