Findings of a new study appear to give vindication to individuals who opt for gluten-free products despite not having celiac disease, a genetic autoimmune condition where consumption of gluten found in wheat and other grains can cause damage to the small intestines.
Experts say that those who do not have the disorder do not have to skip regular wheat and grain products. For one, gluten-free food products can be expensive. They may also contain more sugar and fat that can lead to unnecessary weight gain. Products that eliminate gluten may have to compensate for lost food texture and flavor by adding more fattening ingredients.
Some individuals without celiac disease claim that a wheat-free diet makes them feel better and a new research explains why.
In a study presented at the 2016 United European Gastroenterology conference in Austria, researchers found that a group of relatively unknown wheat proteins can worsen a host of medical conditions even among those who do not suffer from celiac disease or wheat allergy.
Researchers found that consumption of amylase-trypsin inhibitors, or ATIs, present in wheat can set off an immune response in the gut that can spread to other body tissues such as the kidneys, lymph nodes, spleen and brain.
The study likewise found that despite making up not more than 4 percent of wheat proteins, ATIs can trigger powerful immune reactions. They can worsen symptoms of chronic health conditions such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, lupus and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Because some people experience stomach symptoms when they eat food with ingredients that contain gluten regardless of not having celiac disease, ATIs may be responsible for this non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or NCGS. ATIs may also explain why extraintestinal symptoms such as migraine headaches are experienced by some people after consuming wheat-based products.
Gluten is not considered as a factor of NCGS but people who suffer from this condition experience benefits from a gluten-free diet. Symptoms that include irregular bowel movement, eczema, joint pain, headaches and abdominal pain were observed to rapidly improve when affected individuals avoid food containing gluten.
"We believe that ATIs can promote inflammation of other immune-related chronic conditions outside of the bowel," said study researcher Detlef Schuppan from the Johannes Gutenberg University. "The type of gut inflammation seen in non-celiac gluten sensitivity differs from that caused by celiac disease, and we do not believe that this is triggered by gluten proteins."