Tell them about this new study published in Gut titled “Intestinal cell damage and systemic immune activation in individuals reporting sensitivity to wheat in the absence of coeliac disease.”
Chances are they’ll cave before you get through the title.
Sure, there are some people who avoid gluten because it’s trendy or they’ve bought into the faulty claim that gluten is responsible for everything wrong in the world.
But, non-celiac wheat sensitivity (NCWS) is the real deal, and this study of 80 individuals with NCWS helps to explain why people with this condition experience symptoms after ingesting gluten.
As you probably gathered from its verbose title, this study is complicated and technical, so I’ve simplified a few of the key findings for you.
Individuals in this study with NCWS who continued to consume gluten were found to have increased levels of a circulating protein that’s associated with damage to the cells of the intestinal tissue.
Keep in mind that your gut is your body’s first line of defense against bacteria, toxins, and other potentially harmful invaders. When this barrier is weakened, there is unregulated movement of both good and bad molecules in and out of the body, a condition commonly referred to as "leaky gut".
Not only did these individuals possess higher levels of proteins associated with intestinal damage, but they also had increased levels of a couple of proteins that are consistent with the movement of microbial products (e.g. bacteria) across the intestinal barrier. Once inside the body these unwelcome visitors can contribute to harmful inflammation and painful symptoms.
Here’s a flow diagram to help illustrate what might be taking place based on the above findings:
Eating gluten with NCWS → intestinal damage and leaky gut → microbial products moving across the intestinal barrier into the body → immune activation → inflammation → symptoms
Now, can you guess what happened when 20 of these 80 people stopped eating gluten?
Their symptoms improved as did their markers of intestinal damage and immune activation.
As far as I know, this is the first study to identify measurable markers of an immune system response and intestinal injury in people without celiac disease who report symptoms after eating gluten.
Further research is needed to determine what’s responsible for these findings, but for now it should be enough to quiet those who insist that there is no such thing as a non-celiac gluten/wheat sensitivity.