Study: Non-Celiac Wheat Sensitivity is a Real Disorder

wheat, bread
Disease Research

Previous research may have rendered wheat sensitivity in those who do not have diagnosable celiac disease as imaginary, but a new study suggests that there may actually be a biological reason for it. The reactions, however, are a bit different than those of people who have diagnosed celiac disease. [1]

The study had a difficult time finding recruits, as most people who have wheat-sensitivity are all self-diagnosed and have abstained from eating gluten to curb their symptoms. Those with celiac can be positively identified through blood tests and biopsies, which cannot be done for those who report not feeling well when eating wheat.

“We had no biomarkers or anything to say they had a disease process going on other than reporting they don’t do well when they eat wheat,” said Dr. Peter Green, director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University.

Green and his colleagues analyzed the blood of 80 people who claim to be wheat-sensitive, 40 people with diagnosed celiac disease and 40 people who have neither condition.

Researchers already knew that when those with celiac disease eat gluten, their body produces an autoimmune response which damages their small intestine.

The same thing didn’t happen to the wheat-sensitive group, but it was found that there was some kind of intestinal damage when they consumed gluten, it was just different from the group with celiac. And while their blood didn’t show the same autoimmune patterns as those with celiac, it did show that the wheat-sensitive group did have an immune response after ingesting gluten.

Green said in a press release:

“Our study shows that the symptoms reported by individuals with this condition are not imagined, as some people have suggested. It demonstrates that there is a biological basis for these symptoms in a significant number of these patients.” [1]

The patients who participated in the study who showed signs of wheat-sensitivity stopped eating gluten for a total of six months. Most saw an improvement in their symptoms.

Green said of his new research:

“It also raises the likelihood that we’ll be able to develop a test. Then, we can categorize individuals and treat them appropriately.” [2]


[1] USA Today

[2] Business Insider