Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity sound like two totally different entities. Celiac disease sounds severe while gluten sensitivity seems pretty harmless. Unfortunately, both are very serious digestive conditions and are actually much more similar than their names would indicate.
Both celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are forms of gluten intolerance. Gluten and gliadin are proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye that give flour its elasticity. Gluten and gliadin can be found in cookies, breads, pastas, anything that uses flour and certain kinds of alcohol. An allergy to gluten can lead to both gluten sensitivity and eventually celiac disease.
Gluten sensitivity and celiac disease should be thought of as progressing points on the same continuum. Both are caused by gluten intolerances, and gluten sensitivity can quickly evolve into the more severe celiac disease.
Celiac disease sufferers are defined as those who have unhealthy, deteriorated villi. When gliadin and gluten trigger an allergic reaction, it inflames the small intestine. This inflammation flattens and destroys the lining (villi) of the small intestine, impeding nutrient absorption. Celiac disease is diagnosed through a biopsy of the small intestine which shows the villous atrophy.
Below is an image of healthy villi on the left, and villi worn down due to gluten consumption on the right. The villi are responsible for capturing and transmitting nutrients to the rest of the body. Flattened and deteriorated villi are much less functional.
Though it is well-known in the medical community that gluten sensitivity is a precursor to Celiac disease, it is often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. Why? Because most doctors test only for Celiac disease. Though the villi biopsy cannot measure gluten sensitivity, it is the most common test among medical professionals. Unfortunately, many people who have Gluten Sensitivity continue to suffer for years, leading to unnecessary villi damage and pain. It's time to demand preventative measures when it comes to your health.