Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and other grains. You can find gluten in everything from pizza to soy sauce. Unfortunately, roughly 1% of the population suffers from Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that’s triggered by the consumption of gluten. An additional 6% of the population is also believed to suffer from a somewhat less serious condition known as non-Celiac gluten sensitivity.
Non-Celiac gluten sensitivity has had a complex history as a villain in recent years though. In 2011, a study was released that found that patients without Celiac disease could experience similar symptoms after consuming gluten. However, the lead researcher of that study, published another study in 2013 saying that non-celiac gluten sensitivity didn’t actually exist.
But just this week, a new study added strong evidence in support of gluten sensitivity. The study was a randomized, doubled-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study (doesn’t get much better than that). The researchers enrolled 61 adults who were believed to be gluten sensitive (but didn’t have Celiac disease or a wheat allergy) and gave them a pills containing either gluten or rice starch (the placebo). After being randomly selected to either the gluten or rice starch group for 1 week, each participant switched to the other pill for the second week. The researchers found that the participants had significantly greater abdominal bloating, pain, foggy mind, depression and canker sore symptoms when taking the gluten pill.
It appears that non-celiac gluten sensitivity exists. So if you have symptoms like bloating, pain, fatigue, depression, diarrhea, constipation, achy joints and headaches you might want to talk to your doctor about getting tested for Celiac disease or giving a gluten-free diet a try.
Here’s a quick overview of what you can and can’t eat on a gluten-free diet:
Biesiekierski, Jessica R., et al. “Gluten causes gastrointestinal symptoms in subjects without celiac disease: a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial.” The American journal of gastroenterology 106.3 (2011): 508-514.
Biesiekierski, Jessica R., et al. “No effects of gluten in patients with self-reported non-celiac gluten sensitivity after dietary reduction of fermentable, poorly absorbed, short-chain carbohydrates.” Gastroenterology 145.2 (2013): 320-328.
Di Sabatino, Antonio, et al. “Small Amounts of Gluten in Subjects with Suspected Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity: a Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Cross-Over Trial.” Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology (2015).