Three New Studies Provide More Insights into Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

by Melissa Diane Smith

If your doctor thinks there is no research to support gluten sensitivity that is not celiac disease, three new scientific abstracts published in a Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition supplement and presented at the annual NASPGHAN pediatric gastroenterology scientific meeting in mid-November might change his or her mind. Leading gluten researchers Alessio Fasano, MD, of the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research was involved in two of the research reports, and Rodney Ford, MD, of the Children’s Gastroenterology Clinic in Christchurch, New Zealand, authored the other.

In the first, Dr. Fasano and colleagues at the University of Maryland and the Second University of Naples, Italy, conducted studies to determine the mechanisms involved in gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. The researchers found that compared to celiac patients, people with gluten sensitivity show normal intestinal permeability and minimal gut inflammation. In gluten sensitivity, innate immune responses are activated but certain adaptive immune responses called Th1 and Th17 are not. This data suggests that people with gluten sensitivity do not get the autoimmune process in the gut that is seen in celiac disease because they lack the adaptive immune response that leads to that autoimmune process.

In another study coauthored by Dr. Fasano, researchers evaluated the prevalence of gluten sensitivity and celiac disease in patients who have schizophrenia. The researchers conclude that some patients with schizophrenia have gluten sensitivity while some others have celiac disease. The investigators estimate that 1 out of every 5 patients with schizophrenia could potentially benefit from a gluten-free diet.

In the third study, Dr. Ford presented evidence showing that 83 percent of patients in his clinic who had similar symptoms – including children diagnosed as “definite celiac,” “possible celiac,” and “not celiac” – received benefit from following a gluten-free diet. The criteria used to diagnose celiac disease – in other words, the presence of small intestine damage and of tissue damage antibodies in the blood – did not matter in terms of predicting who would be helped by the gluten-free diet. “Clinically, patients with celiac disease are indistinguishable from those with nonceliac gluten sensitivity (gluten syndrome),” Dr. Ford concludes.

References:

Ford, Rodney P. Which serological tests best identify gluten reactions? Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, 2009;Vol. 49, Suppl 1, p. E14.

Sapone A, Lammers K, Casolaro V, et al. Gluten sensitivity is associated to activation of the innate but not Th1/Th17 immune response to gluten exposure. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, 2009;Vol. 49, Suppl 1, p. E14.

Sturgeon C, Eaton, WW, Nicola C, et al. Schizophrenic patients present with increased prevalence of gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, 2009;Vol. 49, Suppl 1, p. E12-E13.

Melissa’s Comments:

These papers along with other research already reported in Nutrition News & Notes confirm that gluten sensitivity is a real health problem that should be taken seriously. Gluten sensitivity should no longer be a condition that is “believed in” or not. If the practitioner you’re seeing is not aware of the research, just print out this page and show him the studies. More research studies are on the way and it’s just a matter of time before non-celiac gluten sensitivity becomes a medical fact written about in textbooks and accepted even by medical professionals who are currently dismissing it. Be ahead of the curve and do your part to spread the word so more people (perhaps including you) can be helped sooner rather than later.

Copyright © 2009 Melissa Diane Smith

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