Gluten Sensitivity | Portland, OR | Lee Dennis, ND

Lee Dennis, ND

Naturopathic Physician


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Not So Sensitive To Gluten?

by Lee Dennis, ND

Posted: May 29, 2014

There's been some discussion recently (such as this) about a study done by Peter Gibson and friends last year. The study was performed to see if gluten is really a common cause of irritable bowel syndrome-like symptoms in those without actual Celiac disease -- something they call non-celiac gluten sensitivity. In the study, the authors found that in most cases gluten was not the issue, but that their symptoms may rather be due to certain types of fermentable carbohydrates, called FODMAPs (fermentable, oligo-, di-, monosaccharides and polyols).

There is some confusion, however, as to what this means. Many are taking this to mean that any problem other than frank celiac disease is probably not caused by gluten -- disregarding gluten-free as merely a dietary fad. But, this is definitely not the case. The problem lies in part with wording used in the study versus gluten-free culture and in part due to a lack of knowledge or understanding of the various problems gluten can cause and how it can cause them.

In the study, they use the term non-celiac gluten sensitivity to refer to gastrointestinal symptoms caused by gluten -- something others might call gluten intolerance. While, in this study, the term gluten sensitivity is refering only to gastrointestinal symptoms, the term is also often used to refer to non-GI symptoms that can occur to gluten. These non-GI symptoms can have a variable appearance from skin rashes to mental fogginess to thyroid problems, in addition to other well-known gluten reactions such as dermatitis herpetiformis, gluten ataxia and baker's asthma. The study performed by Gibson did not look at any non-GI symptoms. Therefore, one cannot conclude from this study that there are no non-celiac gluten-related disorders. One can only surmise, that perhaps FODMAPs are more to blame than gluten for gastrointestinal symptoms in certain individuals whose symptoms appear to be relieved by the removal of gluten from the diet. This is all we can say. But in reality, from one, single study, one really can not conclude anything for sure.


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