Who should avoid gluten?

By Deborah Gerszberg, RD, CNSC, CDN
Clinical Nutritionist, The Pancreas Center

Those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) often have digestive or neurological symptoms when consuming wheat, but have tested negative for celiac disease.

Studies have shown that 28-30% of adults with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may have NCGS. Often a low FODMAPs diet is recommended and successful at improving symptoms.  Since a low FODMAPs* diet is mostly GF, the disappearance of gastrointestinal symptoms may actually be due to the limitation of dietary fructans, a component found in wheat, barley, and rye.

If you have an autoimmune disease, you may want to consider a GF diet.  Autoimmune disease is associated with a ‘leaky gut’ (scientifically speaking, intestinal permeability); gluten can further damage the cells and worsen this permeability. This leads to an increase in inflammation, food sensitivities, and may increase your risk for developing another autoimmune disease.

Autism spectrum disorders are also associated with NCGS, however a large review cautioned that only some children may benefit from a GF (and dairy free) diet. The authors also address that NCGS may affect nervous system disorders, however this remains largely debated.

In summary, those with celiac disease or a wheat allergy should definitely avoid gluten. If you have an autoimmune disease, IBS, or have neurological or gastrointestinal symptoms, you may want to try a GF diet.

Keep in mind however, there are risks of nutrient inadequacies when following a GF diet. Check out next week’s blog to learn how to eat GF and limit your risks!

*A low FODMAPs diet is a diet low in easily fermentable sugars and may improve gastrointestinal symptoms associated with IBS.