The medical community has long debated whether gluten sensitivity in people not diagnosed with celiac disease is a real medical condition or rather a popular self-diagnosis for those following the latest gluten-free diet fad.
A new study by researchers at Columbia University shows that gluten sensitivity is indeed a legitimate medical disorder, although the causes and symptoms are quite different from those of celiac disease or wheat allergy.
What Are the Symptoms of Gluten Sensitivity?
Although researchers can’t pinpoint what causes gluten sensitivity, the participants of the study showed the following symptoms after eating food that contains gluten protein (usually from wheat, rye, or barley):
- Abdominal pain
- Trouble with memory and thinking
The study included 80 individuals who indicated they were sensitive to gluten and compared their results against 40 patients diagnosed with celiacs and 40 healthy individuals labeled as the “control” group.
What’s the Difference Between Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity?
While the Columbia University study suggests that gluten sensitivity is real, the condition is remarkably different from the celiac disease. Celiac is a genetic disorder where immune cells inflame the small intestine’s lining after gluten is ingested. The patient’s immune system releases T-cells, a specific kind of white blood cell that’s responsible for the attacking the intestinal lining.
With gluten sensitivity, patients may have a weak intestinal barrier that allows microbes to penetrate the intestinal wall and enter the bloodstream. These patients don’t have a genetic disorder or autoimmune disease, but they do show definite signs of an immune system response and damage to the intestines after eating gluten.
Additionally, it appears that celiac affects the upper section of the small intestine while the middle part of the small intestine is affected for those with gluten sensitivity.
What’s Next for Gluten Sensitivity Research?
Researchers estimate that approximately one-half percent to six percent of the general popular is gluten intolerant. However, without proper diagnostic tools, it’s impossible at this time to get a truly accurate count. Researchers are working on developing a blood test that will pinpoint gluten sensitivity based on distinct biomarkers and antibodies.
Further research will focus on determining why the intestinal wall is weakened for gluten intolerant patients and will gather more information on the immune response caused by a person’s sensitivity to gluten.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material provided on this Site is provided for information purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition, before undertaking any diet, exercise, other health program, or other procedure set out on this Site.