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Is it Celiac Disease or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity? Unravelling the Key Differences

While celiac disease and gluten sensitivity share some fairly obvious commonalities, understanding the distinctions between the two is crucial for accurate diagnosis, treatment, and mapping your future health plans. 

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition triggered by the consumption of gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. In people with celiac disease, the ingestion of gluten prompts an immune response that damages the small intestine's lining, and this damage can lead to various symptoms and complications, affecting nutrient absorption and overall health. 

Key Characteristics of Celiac Disease

Autoimmune Reaction: Celiac disease involves an autoimmune response, where the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's own tissues in the presence of gluten.

Small Intestine Damage: Gluten consumption leads to inflammation and damage to the villi, tiny finger-like projections in the small intestine responsible for nutrient absorption.

Genetic Predisposition: Celiac disease has a strong genetic component, with certain genetic markers increasing susceptibility.

Diagnosis Through Testing: Diagnosis often involves blood tests measuring specific antibodies and confirmation through a small intestine biopsy.

Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity: A Different Pathway

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is a distinct condition characterised by symptoms similar to those of celiac disease but without the autoimmune response and damage to the small intestine. Individuals with NCGS experience gastrointestinal and/or extra-intestinal symptoms in response to gluten consumption, and these symptoms improve upon adopting a gluten-free diet.

Key Characteristics of Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

Absence of Autoimmune Response: Unlike celiac disease, NCGS does not involve an autoimmune response or damage to the small intestine.

Symptom-Based Diagnosis: Diagnosis is based on the presence of symptoms and the exclusion of celiac disease and wheat allergy through testing.

Variable Onset and Duration: Symptoms in NCGS can vary widely in onset and duration, and they often resolve upon adopting a gluten-free diet.

No Genetic Predisposition: NCGS is not associated with specific genetic markers linked to celiac disease. 

Navigating the Gluten-Free Path

For those diagnosed with celiac disease, strict adherence to a lifelong gluten-free diet is paramount to manage symptoms and prevent complications. This involves avoiding not only obvious gluten-containing foods but also scrutinising labels for hidden sources of gluten. In contrast, those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity can often find relief by eliminating gluten from their diet. While NCGS doesn't lead to the same long-term complications as celiac disease, it's essential to work with healthcare professionals to accurately diagnose and manage symptoms.

Looking for an alternative to pasta, rye and barley? We’ve got you covered. Try these 4 grains.


Quinoa is a loaded with fibre and protein, and it happens to be one of the few plant foods that contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein source. It packs around 8 grams of protein per cup, and protein is known to be one of the most satiating macronutrients, making it an ideal option to reduce cravings and eat healthily. This grain is also a powerful source of antioxidants, packing quercetin and kaempferol in high doses – both of which are known to have anti-inflammatory effects and reduce our risk for disease. Quinoa is easy to prepare and can be used in a variety of dishes, from salads to soups to breakfast porridge.


Despite its name, buckwheat is not related to wheat and is naturally gluten-free – it’s also loaded with magnesium, zinc, fibre and protein., making it a nutrient-dense alternative to wheat flour in baking. It can also be used as a base for gluten-free pancakes or porridge. Among cereal and pseudocereals – these are grains that can be used similarly to cereal grains and include amaranth and quinoa – buckwheat has the highest amount of rutin, an antioxidant with an impressive line of benefits. For starters, it’s known to lower our risk of heart disease by combatting the contributing factors like inflammationhigh-blood pressure and blood clots.


Amaranth has been used for over 8000 years – and for good reason. This ancient grain is rich in manganese, packing 91% of our daily needs in just one cup, along with boasting an impressive 38% of our daily magnesium needs and 29% of our iron needs. It’s also the perfect option to boost digestion as it packs around 20% of our fibre needs in that same cup. Amaranth also a good source of antioxidants, which can help protect your cells from damage. One study found that eating amaranth regularly reduced the bad – LDL – cholesterol and raised our good – HDL – cholesterol drastically. Amaranth can be used in a variety of dishes, from breakfast porridge to salads to soups. It also works well in couscous if you’re looking to use a grain with slow-release energy and nutrient-density.


Millet is rich in fibre, protein, magnesium and phosphorus. It has a mild, nutty flavour and can be used in a variety of dishes, from pilafs to porridge to muffins. One of the best things about this grain is its link to lower inflammation, reduced risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. One study found that replacing white rice with millet in a meal lowered blood-sugar levels after the meal by almost 30%. So, skip the boring old rice and toss some millet onto your meals.

Need a little help getting your health back on track? Join us for the 8-Week Program and we’ll help you change the way you look at food – and that doesn’t mean you have to follow restrictive diets or miss out on your favourite foods; we believe you can still enjoy delicious food without jeopardising your health. With celebrity chef Sarah Glover on our panel of experts, you’ll have an array of fun recipes at your fingertips, along with our own exclusive armoury of simple, tasty and healthy recipes for everything from daily meals to impressive entertaining. We know it can be hard to stick to your health goals – especially when you’re trying to manage it alone. When you sign up with us, you’ll have access to clear-cut meal plans, community support and exclusive access to our sugar-free content. Here’s what’s on offer:

  1. 8 weeks of meal plans and shopping lists.
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  3. Community forums to share your journey.
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So, if you’re ready to ditch sugar and the host of maladies that come with it, it’s not too late to join. We’d love to help you get started on your health journey. Sign up HERE today!

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