Given the growing amount of gluten-free foods available at the grocery store, it seems a number of people have trouble digesting the stuff. But are they truly gluten-intolerant, and is there a clear diagnosis for that?
Gluten sensitivity is the topic of a paper published recently in the Annals of Internal Medicine in which researchers acknowledged the seriousness of celiac disease, but also said part of the population could have nonceliac gluten sensitivity. That’s characterized by having distinct symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, gas, bloating or headaches after eating foods containing gluten.
Celiac disease, also triggered by eating foods with gluten, can cause damage to the lining of the small intestine. Among gastrointestinal symptoms are nausea, diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, and sufferers can also be lactose intolerant. Vitamin and nutrient absorption can also be an issue. A blood test can determine if someone has the disease.
The authors sited a 1981 study in the journal Gastroenterology that found six out of eight people with chronic diarrhea and abdominal pain had a gluten sensitivity but did not have celiac disease. But since then, they added, not much more has been done because testing for nonceliac gluten sensitivity is difficult.