Some people, even if they do not have Celiac disease or wheat intolerance, have an intestinal reaction when eating food that contains gluten, i.e., wheat, barley, and rye. This reaction is characterized as gluten sensitivity or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. The symptoms of gluten sensitivity may be similar to celiac disease, but it has been observed that it does not cause damage to the intestines or lining of the stomach as is triggered by celiac disease.
According to a study conducted by the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research, as many as 20 million US citizens may have some degree of gluten sensitivity. Studies have shown that gluten sensitivity mostly affects the adult/middle-aged population and is much more common in females than males.
People who are gluten sensitive have felt various symptoms including bloating, diarrhea, stomach pain, weight loss, headache, bone and joint pain, chronic tiredness, fatigue, and depression. These symptoms usually appear following the ingestion of Gluten and disappear after its withdrawal. Unlike celiac disease or wheat intolerance, there is no clear test available to diagnose gluten sensitivity. However, it is usually confirmed after the other gluten-related disorders are ruled out.
Causes of Gluten Sensitivity
There is very little proven scientific evidence available to suggest the underlying causes of Gluten Sensitivity. It is still not clear whether it’s the gluten or some other compound present in wheat, barley, and rye that causes the disease. Some researchers have suggested that FODMAPs (complex carbohydrates that cause symptoms like intestinal bloating, gas and pain) that are found in wheat might be the reason behind the condition.
Several studies have been conducted to ascertain the actual cause of the disease. These studies have shown mixed results. For example, in one study 37 subjects were served with pure wheat-gluten in their diet. They didn't experience any digestive symptoms when they ate pure gluten. However, some of them did get depression.
Another study used the technique as mentioned above with the people who considered themselves gluten-sensitive and found that some of them did react to pure gluten. Alternatively, when they were provided with a gluten-free diet, their digestive symptoms improved.
It is not yet evident what might be the cause of gluten sensitivity. Research is still going on, and until clear evidence emerges, scientists have varying opinions about the actual causes of the disease.
As discussed above, scientific studies about the treatment of gluten sensitivity are limited at this time, but doctors agree that the right course of action for treating the condition is 100% gluten-free diet. It might be possible for some gluten-sensitive individuals to tolerate a low-gluten diet instead of a gluten-free diet. However, it is always advisable to consult the GP before adding gluten to the food if the symptoms of gluten sensitivity reappear.
It is pertinent to mention that there is no scientific evidence to suggest that gluten sensitivity may lead to intestine damage or any other severe digestive condition. Nevertheless, it is wise to be careful in consuming a diet which is rich in gluten or other potential causes including FODMAPs.
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