Gluten sensitivity appears to be a real medical problem, and not a figment of the popular imagination conjured up by the gluten-free craze, a new study contends.
Some people suffer changes within their bodies after eating gluten that are separate and distinct form those that accompany either celiac disease or wheat allergy, researchers report.
“We don’t know what is triggering this response, but this study is the first to show that there are clear biological changes in these individuals,” said senior researcher Armin Alaedini. He is an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University in New York City.
People with non-celiac what sensitivity appear to suffer from a weakened intestinal barrier, which leads to an immune response after they eat foods that contain the gluten protein – typically wheat, rye or barley.
Their symptoms involve bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhea, but also include fatigue, headache, anxiety, and problems with memory and thinking skills, the study showed.
These people don’t have celiac disease, a genetic disorder in which immune cells attack the lining of the small intestine following exposure to gluten. They also don’t have a wheat allergy, which usually prompts allergic reactions such as hives, itchy eyes or difficulty breathing, but does no long-term damage to the small intestine.
The analysis of 80 patients with non-celiac wheat sensitivity shows they did not experience an autoimmune reaction. And, they didn’t have T-cells – a specific form of white blood cell – attacking living cells in the body, as occurs in celiac disease, Alaedini explained.
But people with non-celiac wheat sensitivity did show evidence of an acute and systemic immune activation that did not occur in celiac disease, accompanied by signs of cellular intestinal damage.
The results suggest that people with non-celiac what sensitivity suffer from a severe immune reaction because microbes and food particles can seep through their weakened intestinal barrier and into their blood stream, the researchers explained.
According to Alaedini, a blood test will likely be developed that can diagnose non-celiac wheat sensitivity based on the antibodies and biomarkers found in this study.
The findings were published online July 25 in the journal Gut.
This study confirms the working theories on “leaky gut” that many nutritionists have been using for years. The immune response is triggered from the GALT (gut associated lymphatic tissue). That signals the thymus to produce either Th1 or Th2 cells, depending on whether the GALT perceives the foreign body in the blood stream as a live organism or an organic compound.
Proteins, like gluten, or disaccharides, like lactose, are the typical non-living triggers. Viral particles, bacteria, and fungal infections are the living triggers.
Zonulin has been identified as a key biomarker for intestinal permeability and a serum test is now available from Doctor’s Data, a clinical lab that has been performing innovative specialty testing since 1972.
The Bottom Line:
Leaky gut is a real health concern. I believe that it is involved in 75% of the health issues I see daily, from IBS to acute low back pain. It is also a trigger for a vast majority of the autoimmune disease that plagues modern society.
Source: July 29, 2016 National Institutes of Health