picture of sources of gluten

Gluten strikes again!

Last week we had a great post about a new Swedish study that could (to paraphrase Emily K, could could could) give us new information on preventing celiac disease, which is a huge step that most of us probably wish had happened a long time ago. In the last couple of days, some news has come out that examines the flip side of the gluten-free coin: a recent Australian study strongly suggests that gluten can be the culprit in moderate and even severe gastrointestinal issues even in people who have tested negative for celiac disease.

We already know that gluten intolerance without a diagnosis of celiac disease is possible, although both issues are seriously lacking in research. What this study was attempting was to provide harder proof that gluten intolerance could actually be triggering other gastrointestinal problems; in this case, irritable bowel syndrome. The study notes that, “despite increased prescription of a gluten-free diet for gastrointestinal symptoms in individuals who do not have celiac disease, there is minimal evidence that gluten is a trigger.”

The study, which was published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, was conducted by a team led by Professor Peter Gibson of Monash University’s Eastern Health Clinical School. The school is a new one at Monash, Melbourne’s second-oldest university, and its research faculty specialize in developing novel treatments for gastrointestinal disorders such as IBS and celiac disease – which is pretty cool in and of itself!

The study focused on 34 people with irritable bowel syndrome, all of whom had been proven to not have celiac disease, but had reported benefiting from a gluten-free diet. The subjects stuck to their gluten-free diet for the duration of the study, but were also fed bread and muffins, half of which were gluten-free.

Nearly 70% of the volunteers who ate the non-gluten-free muffins reported symptoms that should ring a bell for most of us – bloating, extreme tiredness, and stomach pain.

As with most scientific studies, there are some issues that could be raised with this study, like the small size of the subject group and the duration of the test (which, at six weeks, is actually relatively long). But the implication here – that gluten could be the responsible party in IBS or other gastrointestinal diseases – is pretty fascinating, especially for those who have been frustrated by testing negative for celiac while still suffering from celiac-esque symptoms.

What has been your experience with celiac testing? Do any of you find relief in a gluten-free diet even though you’ve tested negative for celiac? What kinds of studies about gluten or celiac disease would you conduct if you had unlimited time and resources?