Gluten is a protein naturally found in wheat, barley, and rye. It’s the main ingredient in bread, pasta, and a wide range of other products. Sensitivity to gluten, known as gluten intolerance, is a condition that affects about one in 20 people in the United States. Gluten triggers an immune system response called celiac disease, which differs from gluten intolerance in some people. Many of the symptoms can resemble the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

Symptoms can include:

Your gastroenterologist should diagnose all symptoms for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

Is It Serious?

Celiac disease is the most extreme version of gluten intolerance because it tricks the immune system into attacking the body’s tissues. If you have this condition, gluten triggers antibodies that flatten the tiny hairs inside your intestines. These hairs, called villi, are vital for soaking up the nutrients from food during digestion. In this case, treatment from your NYC gastroenterologist is vital because the consequences of untreated celiac disease are very serious. They can include:

  • Itchy, blistered skin;
  • Osteoporosis;
  • Malnutrition;
  • Joint pain;
  • Dental enamel damage;
  • Reduced spleen function;
  • Small intestinal cancer.

Get Tested

Our GI doctors at Manhattan Gastroenterology will run tests to determine whether you have celiac disease or a milder form of gluten sensitivity. It’s important to undergo these tests before eliminating gluten from your diet so that the tests can conclusively provide a correct diagnosis. Gastroenterology tests can include:

  • Blood tests
  • Following the blood tests, your New York City gastroenterologist may order a procedure in which a small instrument is inserted down your throat to look at the villi for damage. Taken at the time of the endoscopy, a biopsy provides the digestive doctor with a tiny sample of your small intestine to test for celiac disease and cancer.

Don’t Be Confused

The side effects of gluten have taken center stage recently in the media. Though you may feel some relief by jumping on this bandwagon, know that you could be masking symptoms from another disease, such as:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS);
  • Inflammatory bowel disease;
  • Iron-deficiency anemia;
  • Intestinal infections;
  • Chronic fatigue;
  • Diverticulitis.

One of the reasons celiac disease and gluten intolerance have been underdiagnosed is because they closely resemble these other conditions.

Updated on Oct 16, 2022 by Dr. Shawn Khodadadian (Gastroenterologist) of Manhattan Gastroenterology