Celiac disease and gluten-intolerance, what is the difference?

It may be more manageable than you think

If you suspect you may have celiac or gluten intolerance, please see call Starting Point Acupuncture and Wellness at (425) 686-4498 to schedule your initial consultation to learn how we can help.

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Celiac disease vs. Gluten Intolerance

In today’s culture, going gluten-free seems to be the new “thing.” It is becoming more common for people to be diagnosed with celiac disease and have to go on a gluten-free diet. However, there is a separate group of people who do not have celiac but have symptoms when eating gluten. These people are gluten intolerant aka “non-celiac gluten intolerance (NCGS).” Symptoms commonly seen with celiac and gluten intolerance include: diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, joint pain, fatigue, and eczema. Some people with celiac may be asymptomatic.

Autoimmune vs. intolerance

Celiac disease (CD) is an autoimmune disease characterized by destruction of the cells that line the small intestine which is triggered by the ingestion of gluten. Celiac disease can be considered one potential result of gluten intolerance. In celiac, when you eat gluten, your immune system specifically attacks the small intestine lining.

In addition, there appears to be a genetic component in CD as well as what is known as leaky gut or “intestinal permeability.”

Therefore, celiac disease is when intestinal damage is seen on intestinal biopsy, and is officially diagnosed when a person has positive celiac labs, positive intestinal biopsy, and the person gets better on a gluten-free diet.

Gluten intolerance, by definition

To compare, gluten intolerance is an immune reaction to gluten, which involves a different intestinal response to gluten. With gluten intolerance, a person gets digestive symptoms similar to those in celiac but upon testing find that they do not have villous atrophy or positive celiac labs. A person with gluten intolerance may have positive labs to other antibodies of the immune but not to the ones specifically tested for in celiac disease.

In both celiac and gluten-intolerance, symptoms seem to be resolved if the person goes on a gluten-free diet.

If you suspect you may have celiac or gluten intolerance, please see call Starting Point Acupuncture and Wellness at (425) 686-4498 for further evaluation and treatment.

Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAc, is a naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist in Bothell, WA at her practice Starting Point Acupuncture. She specializes in chronic and complex cases and commonly treats neuropathy, fibromyalgia, migraines, autoimmune, and infertility cases. Dr. Ellie Heintze is also the author of the book, A Starting Point Guide to Going Gluten-Free  and Keep Calm and Zen Out available on Amazon.


Rubio-Tapia, et al. Celiac Disease. Curr Opin Gastroenterol (2010): Mar;26 (2):116-22.

Sapone et al. Divergence of gut permeability and mucosal immune gene expression in two gluten-associated conditions: celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. BMC MED 2011: March 9;9 (1) 23.

Call or Schedule Now! (425) 686-4498

Call or Schedule Now!

(425) 686-4498

Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAc

  • Master’s Degree in Acupuncture
    Bastyr University
  • Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine
    Bastyr University
  • Master’s Degree in Chemistry
    Northern Arizona University
Dr. Heintze Acupuncturist and Naturopathic Doctor

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