Gluten Sensitivity May Be a Factorin IBS, Researchers Suggest

by Melissa Diane Smith

People with gastrointestinal symptoms who test negative for celiac disease have long known that they are apt to get a diagnosis of “irritable bowel syndrome” (IBS) from a doctor rather than a diagnosis of gluten sensitivity. But gluten sensitivity provides a trigger that can explain at least part of the spectrum of symptoms that constitutes IBS, a group of doctors from the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute in Canada and the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota propose.

In the June issue of the American Journal of Gastroenterology, they explained the problem so many gluten-sensitive people face:

Gluten-sensitive individuals, who have IBS symptoms and IgG antibodies to gluten, are orphans, living in no man’s land, acknowledged neither by functional disease specialists nor by celiac disease specialists.

To address this problem, the researchers examined the clinical and experimental evidence exploring a presumed relationship between gluten sensitivity and the generation of gastrointestinal symptoms seen in IBS. They defined gluten sensitivity as a condition of some morphological (structural), immunological, or functional disorder that responds to gluten exclusion.

Their summary of the evidence:

  • Recent clinical observations in humans support gluten sensitivity as a mechanism generating many gastrointestinal symptoms considered diagnostic of IBS.
  • The animal model of gluten sensitivity in genetically-susceptible mice reproduces the gastrointestinal effects reported in individuals with mild gluten sensitivity rather than classic celiac disease.


Verdu EF, Armstrong D, Murray JA. Between celiac disease and irritable bowel syndrome: the “no man’s land” of gluten sensitivity. American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2009;104(6):1587-94.

Melissa’s Comments:

It’s great to see yet more research into gluten sensitivity! It’s especially good to see researchers looking into its relationship to IBS, which gluten-sensitive people have long believed was in large part caused by undiagnosed gluten sensitivity. IBS is one of the more common GI disorders in our society, with a prevalence of about 10 percent, and it imposes a very high economic burden in North America. Just think if this research leads to one day walking into a doctor’s office and being told to take gluten out of your diet instead of to take one of a number of needless, expensive medications for IBS. Research into gluten sensitivity is increasing, so we’re inching closer to that time. But of course you don’t have to wait. If you haven’t already, read all the health reasons to go against the grain and change your diet to protect yourself from countless conditions, including IBS, right now.

© Copyright 2009 Melissa Diane Smith

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