Gluten Sensitivity

The increase in the number of cases of celiac disease enabled medical practitioners to develop fairly accurate tests which can clearly determine if a person is suffering from celiac disease or not. Many people who needed medical attention for symptoms similar to celiac disease were found not to have celiac. This prompted research which made it clear that there is another disease related to reaction to gluten that is neither celiac nor allergy. The condition is neither allergic nor autoimmune. The distress caused by ingesting food with gluten does not show the presence of anti-tTG autoantibodies, characteristic for celiac disease, and the lining of small intestine is normal. However, the symptoms are very similar.

Some additional symptoms in people with gluten sensitivity are not related to the intestines, such as chronic fatigue, behavioral changes, muscle cramps, bone or joint pain, leg numbness and weight loss. The only way to diagnose gluten sensitivity is to eliminate other causes, such as celiac disease or wheat allergy, with appropriate tests. The condition usually improves once people eliminate gluten from their diet.

It is not clear what caused such a huge increase in adverse reactions to gluten in the last 50 years. Some theories point to the food industry’s selection of wheat varieties with a high gluten content. Others suspect that we, especially people of European origin, are eating too much gluten in various forms. Gluten is found naturally in wheat, rye and barley, but it is added to a wide range of food products. Frozen meals, all kinds of take-out food, chips, snacks, energy bars, breakfast cereals, donuts, cakes, cookies, sandwiches, pizzas, hot dogs, hamburgers, soy sauce, beef, all contain gluten. It is actually quite difficult to completely eliminate gluten from our nutrition, what is crucial for people suffering from celiac disease.

While products labeled ‘gluten free’ are saturating the food market, they are not cheap. As an alternative, many people are creating their own ‘gluten free diet’, eliminating (without appropriate substitution from other food groups) all grains from their diet, seriously endangering their nutrition. If you suspect that you are suffering from an adverse reaction to gluten, consult your physician and get a proper diagnosis. Once you know what is wrong, your doctor and dietitian will help you design a balanced diet that is free of gluten but still containing all your body needs for health and well-being. (1)United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Wheat and Gluten Allergies. Available here. (2) Shan L, Molberg O, Parrot I, Hausch F, Filiz F, Gray GM, et al. Structural Basis for Gluten Intolerance in Celiac Sprue. Science 27 September 2002: Vol. 297 no. 5590 pp. 2275-2279. Available here. (3)Mansueto P, Seidita A, D’Alcamo A, Carroccio A. Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity: Literature Review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Volume 33, Issue 1, 2014. Available here.

References   [ + ]

1. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Wheat and Gluten Allergies. Available here.
2. Shan L, Molberg O, Parrot I, Hausch F, Filiz F, Gray GM, et al. Structural Basis for Gluten Intolerance in Celiac Sprue. Science 27 September 2002: Vol. 297 no. 5590 pp. 2275-2279. Available here.
3. Mansueto P, Seidita A, D’Alcamo A, Carroccio A. Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity: Literature Review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Volume 33, Issue 1, 2014. Available here.

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