The Dilemma of the Gluten-Free Diet

Gluten free bread ingredients and utensils on wood frame background. Gluten sensitivity or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is a health disorder induced by the ingestion of gluten causing intestinal and/or extraintestinal symptoms. It is resolved once the gluten containing food is eliminated from the diet, and when celiac disease and wheat allergy have been alleviated. The pathogenesis of non-celiac gluten sensitivity is not yet well understood. It was hypothesized that gluten, as occurs in celiac disease, is the cause of non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Besides gluten, other components in wheat, rye, barley, and their derivatives may cause the same symptoms.

A new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that eating gluten-free is nearly impossible, underscoring the need for better treatments for patients with celiac disease.

Experts say up to 1% of the global population has celiac disease, an autoimmune condition in which people develop an immune reaction to gluten. Gluten is a protein that appears in any food containing wheat, barley, and rye. The immune system reaction results in inflammation and damage in the lining of the small intestine, which can lead to medical complications, such as acute stomach pain and failure to absorb nutrients.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study used data from three prior clinical trials to estimate how much gluten 246 celiac patients were ingesting. The gluten measurements were based on either a stool or urine sample.

The study found that on average patients were ingesting 200 to 250 milligrams of gluten a day, says Jack Syage, CEO of immunogens, a Newport Beach, Calif.-based biotechnology company, and first author on the study. Someone without celiac disease eats about 7,500 to 10,000 milligrams of gluten a day.

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