Gluten Sensitivity

Gluten Allergy SymptomsWhen someone has celiac disease, the intestine is actually damaged by gluten and an auto-immune reaction develops. And usually, those antibodies can be detected by blood tests.

But there are others who are sensitive to gluten or wheat who do not have celiac disease. They feel better on gluten-restricted diets. This is now termed non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

There are important distinctions between

  • Celiac disease
  • Wheat allergy
  • Non-celiac gluten sensitivity

Celiac Disease and Wheat Allergy are their own Medical Conditions (you can read more below under “Further Reading”).  But the real importance in making the correct diagnosis is that those with celiac disease must watch their diet carefully, because gluten can damage the intestines, and they can have other problems too.  And those with wheat allergy don't have to avoid all grains, so their diet can be less limited.  So testing should be done before a gluten free diet is started.  Once someone is on a gluten free diet, the accuracy in making the diagnosis of wheat allergy or celiac disease may not be as good.
Once we don't have to worry about wheat allergy and celiac disease, those with gluten sensitivity can be recognized.

Symptoms can include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating and gassiness
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue

They can be thought to have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS or spastic colon, which is a different term for the same condition).Some patients with autism or autism spectrum disorder, chronic fatigue or long-term intestinal complaints seem to be sensitive.

Trying a Gluten Free Diet

After testing for celiac disease and wheat allergy, a gluten-free diet can be tried. This eliminates all grains that contain gluten.It can be difficult, especially when going to restaurants, school or friends' homes.But the wider availability of gluten-free products in most groceries makes this considerably easier than it used to be.

You should see an improvement within 3-4 weeks.  If you are completely better, wonderful. If not, you are probably not gluten sensitive and can resume a normal diet.If you are a little bit better with your intestinal problem, you may actually have a problem with fructans that are a type of carbohydrate that often accompany gluten.  If that's the case, you may benefit from a wider carbohydrate restriction, the FODMAP diet.

Do recognize that with restrictive diets, you can miss getting some of the vitamins and minerals your body needs.  With a gluten-free diet, you can miss vitamin your B vitamins.If you have questions or concerns, discuss them with your doctor or dietitian.