Mercy's Dr. Matilda Hagan and Registered Dietitian Leigh Tracy Discuss Gluten Sensitivity

December 30, 2017
Dr. Matilda Hagan - Mercy Medical Center

Celiac Disease VS. Gluten Sensitivity


There are a lot of people choosing to eat a gluten-free diet. For some, it's because they have a gluten sensitivity, and others have celiac disease. So what's the difference?


According to Mercy gastroenterologist Dr. Matilda Hagan of The Institute for Digestive Health & Liver Disease at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, MD, there is a big difference between gluten sensitivity and celiac disease, which is a condition that involves the immune system.


"The body, specifically the immune system, recognizes wheat protein, called glutenin, as something that it does not like, and it specifically creates antibodies against that protein," Dr. Hagan said.

Gluten sensitivity does not involve the immune system. It's simply an intolerance and is much less serious. But patients with either condition should avoid gluten, which is a protein in wheat that helps to give products or food its shape.

"Gluten is in a lot of products, and some things we don't realize have gluten. We really need to be mindful, but nowadays, there are a lot of products that are taking gluten out, which has made it easier compared to, say, 10 years ago," Mercy Medical Center registered dietician Leigh Tracy, RD, LDN, CDE, said.

According to Tracy, there are some products that are gluten-free, and just because a food is a grain doesn't necessarily mean it contains gluten. For example, Twizzlers and Pringles are products you may not expect contain gluten, but they do.

Consuming gluten can cause temporary discomfort for someone with sensitivity, but over time can lead to serious complications for those with celiac disease. The bottom line is to always check the label.

View Mercy gastroenterologist Dr. Matilda Hagan and Mercy dietitian Leigh Tracy’s interviews regarding Celiac Disease versus Gluten Sensitivity.

Dan Collins - Senior Director of Media Relations at Mercy Medical Center

Dan Collins, Senior Director of Media Relations

Email: Office: 410-332-9714 Cell: 410-375-7342

About Mercy

Founded in 1874, Mercy Medical Center is a university-affiliated medical facility named one of the top 100 hospitals in the U.S. by Thomson-Reuters with a national reputation for women’s health. Mercy is home to the nationally acclaimed Weinberg Center for Women’s Health and Medicine as well as the $400+ million, 20-story Mary Catherine Bunting Center. For more information visit Mercy online at, Facebook, Twitter or call 1-800-MD-MERCY.

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