Celiac Disease Symptoms vs. IBS: How Can You Tell the Difference?

Sep 13, 2021

Do you feel like your body goes into overdrive when you eat certain foods? You’re not alone. IBS and celiac disease are two different diseases that can cause similar symptoms, so it’s important to know the difference. By comparing and contrasting symptoms of celiac disease with symptoms of IBS, this blog post may help those who have adverse reactions to food identify what is causing them to feel that way.

What is Celiac Disease?

Known as an autoimmune disorder, celiac disease affects the small intestine, and impairs nutrient absorption. It has been linked to genetic factors, environmental triggers such as particular types of bacteria, or even stress. About 1% of Americans suffer from celiac disease, but there may be more cases than previously thought since it can be misdiagnosed.

What Are The Symptoms of Celiac Disease?

In general, celiac disease symptoms may be mistaken for food allergies or lactose intolerance – but the difference with gluten exposure is that these symptoms often appear some time after a meal rather than immediately after eating the food.

  • Abdominal bloating that can turn into severe pain and discomfort, especially after eating a meal or snack high in gluten (a protein found in wheat)
  • Malnutrition from malabsorption of nutrients, especially vitamin D and calcium, because an autoimmune reaction to gluten exposure has damaged the small intestine. Symptoms often include fatigue, weight loss, anemia and poor growth in children.
  • Diarrhea or constipation (though this is not as common)

What is IBS?

IBS affects the large intestine and causes abdominal pain, cramps, bloating, gas, and changes in bowel habits.

IBS symptoms of diarrhea or constipation are common but not always present. Often, what has been labeled as IBS is in fact sensitivity to one or more foods. The most commonly implicated foods are gluten (even in those who do not have celiac disease) and dairy, but many others can cause reactivity of the GI tract as well. Those who think they may have IBS may benefit from an elimination diet. Your doctor can help you decide which foods to consider eliminating. In addition, IBS can be affected by your emotional state, and vice versa. If stress and anxiety go unmanaged, this can have a significant impact on the GI symptoms. 

What Are The Symptoms of IBS?

The symptoms of IBS usually develop gradually over time. They may include:

  • Diarrhea or constipation, which can alternate between episodes.
  • Abdominal pain and cramping are relieved by a bowel movement in individuals suffering from diarrhea-predominant IBS. In contrast, abdominal pain is present even after a bowel movement for those with constipation-predominant IBS.
  • Feeling bloated and gassy after eating or drinking something, mainly if it contains certain trigger foods like gluten or dairy. Those with diarrhea may also feel bloated, but this sensation is usually relieved by a bowel movement. In individuals suffering from constipation, the feeling of bloating continues to be present even well after a bowel movement.
  • Severe stomach pain that is not relieved by a bowel movement and may be accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fever and chills.

What is the Difference Between Celiac Disease and IBS? 

Celiac disease and IBS have some overlap symptoms; however, the main difference with celiac disease is how your body responds to gluten. Individuals suffering from celiac will experience damage to their intestinal lining when they eat foods containing gluten. The damage can take a while to appear, making it difficult for celiac patients to recognize that their diet is harming them.

Optimum Direct Care Can Help

Our board certified physician Dr. Muzzi takes the time to thoroughly discuss the patient’s medical history, diet, as well as any changes that may come up during regular physicals.

If you are experiencing symptoms of food sensitivity, celiac disease, or IBS, it is important that you see a trusted physician that can go over diagnosis and treatment options. Here at Optimum Direct Care, we offer free in-office diagnostic testing, as well as discounted off-site diagnostic testing for our members.

ODC also offers nutritional services to help the patient navigate diet changes, such as going gluten-free. Make an appointment today, and let’s get you on track to alleviate your symptoms. 

“Our initial appointment was so thorough. She wanted to know every aspect of our past records. I felt like she really cared about us and her main goal was to keep us as healthy as possible.”