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The Difference Between Gluten Intolerance and Allergies

wheatfreeGluten intolerance….celiac disease…..gluten sensitivity…..??  I know when a person is intolerant it means they can’t accept someone who’s different from them.  So what’s meant by gluten intolerant?

The word intolerant implies a whole list of long term effects that are proof your body is unwilling to accept something – in this case some kind of food.  A food intolerance is also called food immune reactivity (thought I’d throw another term at you to see if you’re awake) which goes by the acronym FIR.  Just as FIR implies, an intolerance like gluten intolerance is related to your immune system.

Actually, people have intolerances to a lot of different foods – not just gluten.  Some people are intolerant of dairy, tomatoes or soy to name just a few.  An intolerance is different than an allergy.  An allergy is just an active immune system response to a particular food.  An intolerance is the immune system responding, but not with histamines like it does with an allergy.  Your body responds with antibodies that cause a chronic inflammation in the intestines.

When you have an allergy, the body reacts quickly to the offending food and tries to take care of the problem by releasing histamines.  The histamines cause the symptoms.  You can take medicine to get rid of the symptoms.  With an intolerance, the villi in the intestines are flattened and will not recover as long as the wrong food is eaten.

With an allergy, symptoms often disappear on their own and the body is restored whole.  You can have an allergic reaction every day for a year and still fully recover.  An intolerance can cause permanent damage if left undiagnosed or untreated.

For example, keep eating gluten with a gluten intolerance and you can damage a whole lot more than your intestines.  You’ll damage the pancreas eventually too, and that’s just for starters.  Gluten reactions can also affect neurotransmitters in the nervous system because of the overproduction of antibodies.

In other words, a gluten intolerance is much more serious than an allergy most of the time (except in the case of anaphylaxis shock).  An intolerance is long term and just waiting for you to choose the wrong food.  It stands ready to burst into inflammation and make you sick all over again.  But what’s so weird is the same “treatment” can prevent allergies or intolerance reactions – don’t eat the offending food.

Yes, life can be unfair, but isn’t it great to have a disease that doesn’t require surgery, chemo treatments, and power drugs?  The good news is that by making a few changes to our diet means the disease doesn’t control us, we control it. Not many diseases have that privilege!

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