How can you tell the difference betweeb IBS and Celiac Disease?

July 31st, 2008

Sasha C asked:

My stomach has been very weird since I was stationed in VA.
I saw a show about Celiac Disease and swore up and down that I was going through the same things.

I am always tired, I have constipation/diarrhea in alternation, sometimes I’m bloated, my allergies change (one minute I’m allergic to wheat and can eat dairy and then I am lactose intolerant and can eat wheat), my body really shuts down at times,…

It’s not so bad now but I begged my doctor to test me for Celiac and he told me I was overexaggerating and it’s just lactose intolerance. I wanted to smack him because I don’t even eat a lot of dairy products and I knew it was the wheat doing those things to me. Ironically, some months later, dairy products tore me up but the symptoms weren’t the same.

I had a colonoscopy, everything and all my test results came back negative. SO, how can you REALLY tell whether it’s IBS or Celiac?

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    16 Responses to “How can you tell the difference betweeb IBS and Celiac Disease?”

    1. katon 02 Aug 2008 at 9:04 pm

      Have an endoscopy. They go in and take a biopsy of your stomach lining. That’s the only way to know for sure if it is celiac disease.

    2. wrangler7799on 03 Aug 2008 at 7:18 pm

      If you are using DOD insurance see if your GP will give you a reference to a gastroenterologist (good luck last I recall DOD Dr.’s were a pain in the ass to deal with).

      Hopefully you have a PPO and free choice. Go to the gastro tell them the symptoms and concerns and get their opinion. Ask about IBS, Celiac, Crohn’s Disease, ileitis, ulcerative colitis as well.

      Having Crohn’s myself I can fully understand the concerns and annoyances that you are going through right now and the great frustrations.

      Definitely check out a gastroenterologist though and get their opinion since this is the kind of thing they went to school for and not a generalized medical degree.

    3. gurlieakon 07 Aug 2008 at 4:43 am

      While many people with IBS are intolerant to wheat bran, and whole wheat, this is not at all the same thing as the total gluten intolerance caused by celiac. It is possible to have BOTH celiac and IBS, but it’s also very common for celiac to be misdiagnosed as IBS.

      An initial screen for celiac disease will check your blood for antibodies to gluten, and if the results are positive, a small bowel biopsy will follow.

      So – what exactly is celiac disease? Celiac is a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. People who have celiac disease cannot tolerate a grain protein called gluten, which is found in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten can also be found in stamp and envelope adhesive, medicines, and vitamins.

    4. Jmon 07 Aug 2008 at 10:38 pm

      Celiac runs in my family, and most (if not all) of my family members that have it were misdiagnosed. My sister finally realized she had celiac simply by abstaining from wheat for a while. Try it for a few months and see if it helps. If you still feel this way, then you probably don’t have Celiac. Another possibility is that you have an allergy to both gluten and dairy. If this is the case, then sometimes you might react more to one or the other depending on your diet for that week. For instance, if you are allergic to gluten or dairy (or both), you might be able to eat one or the other for weeks before it builds up in your system and then seemingly randomly affects you. This is one reason why it so hard to diagnose. Hope this helps.

    5. shortyon 09 Aug 2008 at 6:28 am

      Celiacs is a gluten intolerence. Eat a sandwich made of white bread if you don’t go to the bathroom it is probably celiacs and if you do it is probably IBS. Celiacs may cause someone to have bowel movements shortly after eating products that contain Gluten. Eat something without it and if you don’t have to go after a couple hours then it is probably celiacs. Hope I could help.

    6. Anon 13 Nov 2008 at 11:57 am

      Has anyone asked you to eliminate wheat and gluten from your diet? Everyone who has GI symptoms – GERD, Acid Reflux, Gall Bladder Disease, Barrett’s Esophagus, Hiatel Hernia, Irritable Bowel, Constipation or Diarrhea should try a gluten free diet. IT may make many painful symptoms dissappear in days or weeks. The only ‘downfall’ is that if you try this without a diagnosis from your Doctor, they will not be able to officially test you for GI tract damage and antibodies until you are painfully eating gluten products again. In the last year I suddenly developed – severe case of Asthma ( off work for 10 weeks) terrible painful bowel symptoms, gas, abdominal bloating, reflux and belching. The pain at times was so severe I was doubled over. Thankfully through my work I heard about gluten intolerance and the severe and disabling symptoms. 21 July 08 – I decided to adjust my diet and just see. The next day I felt so much better and the day after I felt like a new person!! One week of no symptoms my family had worked in the yard late into the day. My husband said lets just order pizza. I knew I would be crossing back over but I always preferred the thinnest crusts… so I thought I would just take this leap and see. Within one hour I was having pain. The worst to come was about 6 hours later, the intensity was so dramatic I was doubled over holding my abdomen. The bloating and gas was overwhelming. One other truth telling experience was a local spicy food that is served over pasta. I had always had ‘indigestion’ from this food. I never had it the evening before a work day even though my entire family loves this as a meal. After my gluten free days started they asked for this food for dinner. I didn’t work the next day and figured I could improvise. I had my dinner with a baked potato and they all had pasta. The heavily spiced local favorite had no effect on me that day! So it had nothing to do with the spices or even fat content …. alll along it was the PASTA ! All the pain for nothing … all the years! Even though I read labels like a fiend now .. things still sneak by and .. OUCH. Surprising locations ….. some popular artificial sweetners use gluten products to keep it from being sticky?? Some vitamins and supplements(could have started my ‘asthma’ symptoms) ….Some rotissierre poultry is infused with spices or broth with gluten products ( ouch – you think its chicken but there is wheat lurking inside!) Try it … I am sure many many people will find happy bellies!

      JUst remember if you want to be diagnosed … all testing must be done while eating wheat and gluten .. trust me I will never be tested becaue I cannot torture myself with those foods knowingly.

    7. laineyon 02 Jan 2010 at 4:54 pm

      I was diagnosed with ibs at 18 after years of suffering with eventually got worse after giving birth to m first child. i was given peppermint oil tablets and colofac which i took religiously for 2 years. after seeing no beneficial effects from the treatment i stopped taking the medication. i have been off it for nearly 3 years trying to deal with it in my own my own way, to no avail i mite add. i have all the symptoms of ibs and yet at a closer inspection i have all the symptoms of coleiac disease as well. so how can i tell the difference and how can i get my doctor to listen to me and take mer seriously?

    8. fartygirlon 12 Apr 2010 at 2:50 am

      I second what shorty says. Two summers ago, I thought I had celiac. But when I did some research and found out how gluten affects celiacs, I knew for sure, I did not. It sounds like gluten gives celiacs instant diarrhea. They are REALLY sick.

      IBS can be debilitating, but not hospital-worthy.

      I went to my doctor and had a blood test done. I came out as negative for celiac. She informed me that it is possible that I’m simply intolerant to gluten. There are many of us who are intolerant, who are not celiacs.

      Gluten definitely does not help digestion, so it’s a good idea to stay off it anyway.

    9. Confusedon 03 Jun 2010 at 1:10 am

      I was diagnosed with ibs 7years ago after years of pain, since I was young. 5 years ago I had my appendix out to which they weren’t infected. To this day I still believe it was symptoms from my ibs but over the past year everything has got worse it’s definateky the “d” for me but I’m concerned it may be celiacs, I’m a single parent and the expense of it all scares me if I try the diet then can’t go back, how would I cope if I couldn’t stuck to it. I’m seriously concidering going to the doctors for testing as all the comments iv read tell me I should and have I right too. It’s nice to know I’m not alone with this.

    10. Anon 03 Jun 2010 at 8:48 am

      I noticed some saying that Celiac causing diarrhea. While that is a true statement it may also cause constipation or vacillate between the two. If your doctor doesn’t want to listen or tesst you just remove gluten from your diet and live a healthy happy life. It is MUCH easier today than 2 years ago. Mainstream grocery stores are providing gluten free food areas. Many major food labels are offering gluten free foods – Chex, Betty Crocker, and more. Restaurants offer gluten free menus.

      A simple list of symptoms can be located at search Celiac and read about the disease and likely comorbid diagnoses.

    11. Dr Peter Thatcheron 04 Jul 2010 at 9:23 am

      Lactose deficiency affects 1 in 4 of us to varying degrees so it is very common. Gluten intolerance is also very common, much more so than Celiac disease. However, Celiac disease is becoming increasingly diagnosed so appears more common and this is because of the advent of the blood test we use, called the anti-endomysial antibody. This antibody is raised in the majority of Celiac patients who can experience symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating, tiredness, rashes, anemia and much more. If negative, it is always worth having your antibodies checked as 3% of celiacs have immunoglobulin deficiency and hence the blood test can be a ‘false-negative’.

      You can read more about this at:

      Good luck!

    12. Karen Alisonon 25 Aug 2010 at 7:17 am

      Another possibility is that you could have undiagnosed candida yeast overgrowth which has a lot of the same symptoms as IBS. The symptoms you described are typical of candida problems – constipation, diarrhea, bloating, tiredness, food allergies – especially if you’ve taken antibiotics or birth control pills.

      Here’s an article about it for more info:

      I agree with An that if you think you have a gluten sensitivity, don’t wait for medical tests to prove it, just go off all grains and see how you feel. The book “Dangerous Grains” by Dr. James Braly lists over 100 different medical conditions that are linked to gluten grains. I went off all grains after I read it, and I felt WAY better–lots more energy, better skin, no food cravings, and a big improvement in digestion.

      Going off grains can put you through a brutal detox, though. I had a headache for a few days, was really tired, and felt depressed for no reason. But once it was over (took about 2 weeks for the grains to clear my system), I felt fantastic.

      You can read more about why this happens at:

      Gluten and dairy are two of the top food allergens, so you might have to dump them both.

      Hope that helps!

    13. Maryon 04 Nov 2010 at 3:06 pm

      I’ve just been reading all the comments which have been really helpful. For the last couple of years ive been having bad stomache cramps, bloating, stabbing pains etc … i always thought it had something to do with the sauces i had been eating and the acid they contain…. however, one day i tlked to my local health food store who suggested it could be wheat. I decided to cut it out and within a week i felt so much better, still having some cramps and pains but no way near as bad. I decided to see my doctor about it who said i had to eat wheat for 6 weeks to be tested for celiac….. i only managed 4 and begged to be tested as i was in so much pain and lost half a stone in 2 weeks.

      the results came back negative and i was told it was probably ibs… so ive been put on ‘anti stomach spasm tablets; which dont seem to be helping at all. despite telling the doctor when i came off wheat i felt alot better she suggests i keep eating it? … going back next week to ask for another blood test as she said it may be negative due to the fact i did it early.

      all i want is a pain free stomach! and its quite worrying that alot of doctors misdiagnose celiac as ibs… as there are alot of complications that seem to come along with cd. thanks for posting your stories its good to know other people are feeling the same and i dont seem to be over exagerating

    14. jaimeon 16 May 2011 at 12:04 pm

      For the last 3 years i have been living a gluten free diet becuase i had all these same symptoms. I was told however after my blood work that though it may say negative (becuase i am a type 1 diabetic) because they are both auto-immune diseases it may show negative but is actually postive. So i continued on my marry ole way on this diet. I also consulted a natural path who said it’s an allergy to gluten. However, I have raised questions about this very recently becuase there are some things that still trigger an upset stomach , like gluten free pizza, pasta sauce as well as i have really struggled to keep weight off and ive always been a naturally skinny girl. So i started doing research along with my mother who thought she was celiac and had a biopsy done and isnt, that preservatives can play a huge role in IBS. It’s all the same symptoms. The reason why a gluten free diet may be working is becuase most gluten free breads and products are organic and are preservative free. So Im trying the organic diet without preservatives….I already stay away from packaged and fast foods but some gluten free products do have preservatives especially frozen pre-package gluten free foods… on this diet i can add back my whole grains and get my nutrients back. Gluten free diet deny’s you of so many of the vitamins and nutrients that most celiacs are deficient in like vitamin B, C, Omega’s and many more…How did I not know this before?? So here’s to trying that and maybe I can supress those symptoms while getting my nutrients back!…something for others to keep in mind. Its not great news as you still have to stay away from processed foods and the shopping bill will still be expensive.

    15. elizabeth jorgeon 09 Jul 2011 at 4:24 pm

      I have celiac disease and ibs i bien suffering for 5years and i goes through a nightmare almost everyday of my life i hate it because all i do is suffer the docter tell me that is going to get better and iam still waiting for it to get the reason i dont give up is because of my two sons that i love with all my heart but is getting to a point where iam starting to forget who iam and just waist myself until i can,t no more is like giving up because iam very tired of fighting this disease that is driving me crazy iam so sorry to all my love one but understand me how much cant a person take of suffering from thisb disease love all my family and take care of yourself and for my two boys do the same take good care of yourself ok remerber how much i show you guys how to be strong and a fighterok love liz take care to everyone love you all.

    16. Aliceon 19 Sep 2011 at 8:58 am

      I have been suffering with IBS for over 20 years. I have always believed it was IBS, and I have tried for years to identify and avoid the foods that cause flare-ups. Lately I notice that many more days than not, I eat and soon after feel severely bloated and uncomfortable. I am starting a gluten-free diet today and hope that this will make a diiference. I still think it is likely IBS, but more than that, I hope avoiding gluten and the trigger foods I have already identified will lead to more pain free days. Wish me luck!