Is gluten sensitivity a real thing?

Hi there. Welcome to Episode 58. Thanks for joining me. I missed you last week. 

I had one heck of a week with school Each week we have discussion posts we have to do research on and I spent about 11 hours trying to find research on my topic. I have to be honest. I did not do my best work the first time around when I posted on my topic. I was about 6 hours in to finding hardly anything in the way of research articles to back up my words. I posted anyway and then had to basically redo the whole thing. So I had to spend another five hours. I was so frustrated and in tears just so upset about the whole thing. This research shouldn’t take that long. I actually contemplated dropping the class. I would have been out money so I opted to stay in the class but next quarter I am dropping down to one class a quarter until next summer when I will take two 2 credit classes for a total of four credits instead of the 7 credits I am currently taking. 

It is also summer. My poor daughter is stuck not being able to do much because I am in school plus seeing clients part time. Everything in my life is being done half way so I had to drop school down to one class. I just completely forgot about the podcast last week.  It is tough to get work done when my kids are home. Lots of mom guilt going on here! 

Anyhow. I am learning about all the foods in Whole Food Nutrition and Supplementation and this week we are learning about grains. 

Grains are something that I don’t personally do well with. I have had a few gluten free sandwiches over the last couple weeks. A sandwich is just quick and easy and sometimes I miss having a darn sandwich. I also paid for it. I immediately got a scab on my chest and the other night I felt like there was some kind of poison just underneath my skin on my shoulder that I itched until it became a scab too. This was a common thing for me when I ate gluten. I am sure the stress of school just exacerbated the whole issue because I can do a sandwich here and there and I don’t have that issue. Last week we also had really horrible gluten free pizza in addition to a couple sandwiches so I really stressed my body. 

Alright.  Let’s talk about Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS)and how that affects those of us with autoimmune disease. 

It is an actual thing but not a lot is known about it. Here is what I learned from an article in the Journal of Gastroenterolgy 2015 called NonCeliac Gluten and Wheat Sensitivity. 

Since around 2005 the gluten free diet became quite popular and it has been going strong since then. As of 2015 when this article came out around 100 million Americans were eating gluten free this and that each year. 

Some people don’t think a gluten free diet is healthy unless you have celiac disease. I’m not sure how that makes sense to anyone since people with celiac disease seem to do just fine not consuming glutenous grains. 

There is some thought that NCGS plays some kind of part in IBS, chronic fatigue, autoimmune disease and more. 

Wheat is everywhere. Most of us grew up on it. Bread, pasta, cake, cereal, cookies and so on. It is a filler and it is in the beauty industry. 

If you have an allergy to wheat, your adaptive immune system is involved.  Your T regulatory cells are activated in your intestinal lining. In an actual allergy, you have a histamine response and the immunoglobulin E or IgE cells get involved. In celiac disease (1% of the population) your body creates antibodies against something called transglutaminase-2. 

In NCGS, you can have a reaction to gluten without it being an allergy or celiac. In my case, I don’t know if I have celiac as I was never tested. I felt better off gluten and that was enough for me. If you have symptoms and they improve on a gluten free diet then it might be likely you have NCGS. You may not experience damage to your microvilli like you would if you had celiac disease and there is no IgE reaction but you can have GI symptoms like cramping, bloating, diarrhea or no GI symptoms at all.

The example given in the article is a case of a woman with diarrhea 3x a day with bloating. Her appetite was good and she was of normal weight. She was on an antibiotic for 6 years for acne. She didn’t have any parasites or anything like that. Her symptoms did not improve with removal of the antibiotic or when she was given anti-diarrhea medicine. She lived like this for two years. 

She then tried a gluten free diet and within 4 days her diarrhea was gone. She did a 6 week gluten challenge- or went back on gluten for six weeks. They tested her intestines with a biopsy after 6 weeks gluten free and everything was normal. She went back on a gluten free diet and all symptoms were gone again. 

Now NCGS is defined in the medical literature and it looks like this: 

I am quoting from the article: “a clinical entity induced by the ingestion of gluten leading to intestinal and or extra intestinal symptoms that resolve once the gluten-containing (food) is eliminated from the diet and when celiac disease and wheat allergy have been ruled out.”

There is some question still about the validity of NCGS so defining food sensitivity and food intolerance has become an issue. 

The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases define it as: 

Food intolerance: when the body lacks a particular enzyme to digest nutrients, nutrients are too abundant to be digested completely, or a particular nutrient cannot be digested properly… symptoms are mostly gastrointestinal and secondary to sugar fermentation by our gut microbes, causing gas/bloating/abdominal pain/diarrhea or constipation or a problem with FODMAPs (fermentable oligo- and disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols or lactulose. 

Food allergy: When as stated earlier, your body has an immediate immune response to something you ate. 

Grains and wheat are not huge sources of FODMAPs and the authors make clear that in the case of NCGS, FODMAPs are not causing inflammation in the gut and are not causing NCGS or IBS. 

There are proteins in grains that are only in grains that are thought to be the reason so many of us are developing NCGS and so we should maybe be using the words wheat sensitivity rather than gluten sensitivity.  For me this makes sense if my food allergy testing from Genova Diagnostics was correct all those years ago because it showed I was more sensitive to wheat than to gluten. 

When you experience symptoms of NCGS they can happen in a matter of hours or take days after you consume gluten containing grains and they go away quickly when you take the offending food away. They are saying the most common symptoms are stomach related- pain, gas, bloat, constipation, diarrhea. Others will have headache or migraine, brain fog, chronic fatigue, joint/muscle pain, tingly extremities, numbness in leg/arm, eczema, anemia, depression or a lessening of your autoimmune symptoms or antibodies. 

NCGS can be related to or affect schizophrenia, autism, allergies and autoimmune diseases. It is not thought to be all that uncommon with the prevalence of it being underestimated. The article states that many people with digestive distress may not relate their problems to gluten and NCGS. It appears to be more often occurring in woman and young to middle aged adults. 

We know for sure that the antigen(something that creates and immune response)  gliadin in gluten is a big player here. Gliadin does a lot of stuff in the body related to the immune system, causing cell death and most notably creates openings or spaces in the tight junctions of our small intestine. It doesn’t appear that people with NCGS are having more intestinal permeability than the average person though I don’t think a lot of testing has been done. They do have some higher levels of some immune system cells leading researchers to believe the the innate (quicker to respond) immune system is responsible. 

What are you supposed to do with this information? We know the proteins in wheat are similar to the proteins of our thyroid. If we have inflammation and antibodies- our immune system can attack our thyroid tissue. This is important to know. You have nothing to lose by removing gluten and eating more real whole foods. You can remove it for a month and try reintroduce it and see what happens. Take note of symptoms mentioned like brain fog, headaches, fatigue, joint/muscle pain. If you are experiencing those, you can try to eliminate gluten and all processed foods really and see how you feel. And remember. It took some time for you to “get sick” and really notice your symptoms. True healing takes time. Not just a couple weeks though you might find yourself feeling better, your body needs time to really heal. 

That is it for me today. If you have a question you would like to address send me an email at or fill out the contact form on my website 

I am currently taking new clients and would love to help you navigate your way through diet and lifestyle changes. 

Take care.