WebMD uses gluten intolerance to refer to patients who test negatively for celiac disease but still display symptoms. Gluten intolerance does not damage the intestine. Because there are no tests for it, doctors rely on patients accurately describing symptoms and may sometimes suggest an elimination diet to see if improvement occurs. According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, research indicates that gluten intolerance may be caused by FODMAPs instead.
FODMAPs, which stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, and mono-saccharides and polyols, are a group of difficult-to-digest carbohydrates that break down into various chemicals that, in some individuals, result in bloating, gas and abdominal pain. The NFCA emphasizes the link between gluten intolerance and FODMAP sensitivity by pointing out that wheat, barley and rye are all high in FODMAPs.
Gluten intolerance symptoms can vary, but Jay W. Marks, M.D. writing on MedicineNet describes common symptoms as bloating, gas, diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping. Patients who start a gluten-free diet can sometimes see marked improvement, but Dr. Marks remains skeptical of whether or not gluten is the root cause of their health problems.
WebMD does not recommend going gluten-free unless absolutely necessary, cautioning patients who associate it with immediate weight loss. Gluten-free diets are very restrictive and, if done improperly, can result in mineral and nutritional deficiencies from cutting out whole grains.