Gluten Sensitivity (Intolerance)

  • Medical Author:
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)
    Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)

    Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)

    Dr. Anand received MBBS degree from Medical College Amritsar, University of Punjab. He completed his Internal Medicine residency at the Postgraduate Institute of medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India. He was trained in the field of Gastroenterology and obtained the DPhil degree. Dr. Anand is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology.

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Gluten sensitivity (intolerance) definition

Gluten sensitivity is defined as a reduction in symptoms after eliminating gluten-containing products from the diet.

What are gluten intolerance symptoms?

Gluten sensitivity is all the rage these days. Not a week goes by that I don't see a patient with gastrointestinal symptoms who has started a gluten-free diet - or what they think is a gluten-free diet - who tells me that their symptoms have improved. They describe their symptoms as feeling bloated and gassy, experiencing abdominal pain, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping. Gluten-free products are flooding the market place. Most of these gluten-free products have always been gluten-free, but their gluten-free status now is being advertised for marketing purposes. What's going on here? Is gluten sensitivity really a new "disease?"

What is the relationship between gluten intolerance and celiac disease?

As with most things health-wise, the situation is complex. The first thing to understand is that the gluten sensitivity of celiac disease, a well established disease that affects less than 1% of the population in the U. S., is due to an autoimmune process. This can be considered as an allergic reaction to proteins contained in gluten typically found in several common grains, including wheat, rye and barley. Celiac disease is easily diagnosed by blood tests and intestinal biopsy. The only practical treatment for celiac disease is a strict, gluten-free diet. Ninety-nine percent of individuals I see who report gluten sensitivity, however, do not have celiac disease. So, why do they feel better on a gluten-free diet? There is likely to be more than one explanation.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/4/2015

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