Many people seem to mistakenly believe that wheat intolerance (also called gluten sensitivity) and celiac disease are the same thing. Many more believe that gluten sensitivity simply does not exist. However, gluten sensitivity is a very real problem, and doctors are only beginning to understand it. This type of sensitivity is formally called non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and Beyond Celiac estimates that around 18 million Americans suffer from this condition.

Gluten sensitivity differs from a wheat allergy in that a person’s immune system is not activated and that symptoms are often less severe. Celiac disease is also different from this type of sensitivity. Celiac disease is a much more severe autoimmune disorder that damages the small intestine and can be triggered by gluten. However, as mentioned previously, you do not have to have celiac disease to be sensitive to gluten. It can be hard to self-diagnose non-celiac gluten sensitivity, so you should always talk to your doctor about any symptoms you might be experiencing, but there are some things you can watch out for.

In general, non-celiac gluten sensitivity can cause a wide range of ailments. A feeling of mental fogginess, headaches, stomach pain, cramps, nausea, physical fatigue, and dermatitis are all potential symptoms of non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Other symptoms like depression and joint pain have also been reported. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity can affect your life in many different ways, so it is important to get your condition under control.

If you suspect you have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, you might want to try creating a food journal. Keep track of what you are eating and how you feel afterwards to see if there is a correlation between your eating gluten and the symptoms you are experiencing. This may help you better understand if you have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Because the symptoms are so broad, it is easy to confuse some other medical issue with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. However, a food journal might be a good first step in understanding your condition.

If you do come to the conclusion that you have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, you should talk to your doctor. A doctor will be able confirm your self-diagnosis and make sure you are not suffering from something else. For example, some who think they have non-celiac gluten sensitivity may in fact have celiac disease. However, a doctor is most certainly needed in order to make this diagnosis. Since non-celiac gluten sensitivity manifests in so many different ways, these symptoms can be confusing at times. This is why a medical professional’s opinion is highly recommended. Additionally, once diagnosed with non-celiac gluten sensitivity, a doctor can give you helpful advice about changing your lifestyle to accommodate your sensitivity. That conversation may be the help you need to alleviate your symptoms and start living a healthier life.