Although celiac disease is a serious dietary disorder, no one really quite knows what to make of the sudden uptick in the number of gluten-sensitive people in the world. The words gluten-free have become so popular and ubiquitous, that jokes on the subject are now pretty clichéd. But now researchers at Columbia Medical Center have found the elusive scientific reason behind non-celiac gluten sensitivity and the answer lies in the immune system.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder, and by studying 80 patients (40 with celiac disease and 40 who were wheat-sensitive), researchers found that the latter half also had negative autoimmune responses to consuming wheat. Their bodies triggered a body-wide autoimmune response that caused intestinal damage, the likes of which were not seen in those who were formally diagnosed with celiac disease.
The next step will be to analyze the extent of intestinal damage suffered by those who self-diagnose themselves as gluten-sensitive.
“We'd like to confirm the findings in individuals here, but we need to see them before they go on a special diet," Dr. Peter Green, who directs the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University in New York City, told Reuters Health. “The new results confirm the existence that something's going on in people with wheat sensitivity. It also raises the likelihood that we'll be able to develop a test. Then, we can categorize individuals and treat them appropriately."