It’s easy to accept that for 1% of the population who have coeliac disease and for those who have serious allergies to wheat, eating gluten-free is essential. If they don’t eat this way, an immune response is triggered, causing intestinal damage, often causing with it a range of nasty symptoms such as bloating, severe headaches, diarrhoea, anaemia and fatigue, and over time, more serious conditions such as cancer and osteoporosis.
But for those who don’t need to eat this way for medical reasons are often penalised with a stigma of doing in to be “hip”, or to lose weight. For many who hopped on the gluten-free eating wagon after it became a trend, this may well be true, and it may also be a bad idea. New research has demonstrated that cutting out gluten when you don’t need to can actually be detrimental to your health; something you can read more about here:
and something we’ll be covering as part of our own News blog soon.
However, for some, they may indeed have a very real non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and now there’s a study that proves this.
In a double-blind study carried out by Dr. Alessio Fasano, Director of the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital, Fasano found that half of the study participants did not show any symptoms when secretly fed gluten.
What does this tell us?
One: It suggest that it’s likely for around half of those who claim to have gluten sensitivity, this is not just all in their head.
Two: While you might be likely to interpret the half who did not have a reaction to the gluten as imagining the condition, Fasano commented on the research that it’s more probable that they do have a sensitivity, just not to gluten specifically, but perhaps to something else found in grain.
In which case, avoiding gluten for both of these groups of people, would be a very wise idea.
So How Can Gluten Sensitivity be Diagnosed?
At present there is no official diagnosis procedure or agreed-upon diagnostic criteria available for diagnosing gluten sensitivity. Once celiac disease and other allergies are ruled out, the only way to really know if gluten or something in it is the cause, is to measure under clinical investigation, whether the symptoms go away after eradicating gluten. It’s important that this is overlooked by a physician, as cutting out gluten just because you think it’s a problem, can actually be detrimental, and is about as rational as eating soup with a fork.
In future, it’s hoped that a test can be developed so the sensitivity can be properly diagnosed using official biomarkers. However, such a test may impossible if this sensitivity turns out to be more os a spectrum disorder, overlapping with IBS, gut imbalances, or conditions such as “leaky gut”. Leaky gut for example, is often thought to be triggered by gluten, as well as other inflammatory food & drink such sugar, or excessive alcohol, infections such as candida, or parasites and bacterial overgrowth. It may also be that, similar to the premise behind paleo, there is an evolutionary factor involved, where, because cultivation and consumption of grains occurred so recently in terms of our evolutionary history, humans have not yet evolved to digest it correctly, and so large numbers of the population could have this sensitivity on varying scales.
If you suspect you may have gluten sensitivity, coeliac disease, or any other allergies, it is best to see your Doctor. Allergies, diseases and intolerances are complex and attempting to self-diagnose or eliminating foods without consulting a Doctor, can actually be incredibly harmful and can lead to delaying official diagnosis or treatment even further.
Finally, if you’re the sort to roll your eyes whenever you hear someone mention their gluten sensitivity, perhaps think twice.
I’d love to hear from you!
Have you had any experience trying to test for gluten sensitivity? Do you or someone you know have non-celiac gluten/wheat sensitivity (NGCS)? Have you had your opinion changed on whether it exists? Please share your experiences and opinions in the comments below!