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Non-celiac gluten sensitivity debunked — new theory arises

The researcher who discovered non-celiac gluten sensitivity now finds people on diets without it still experience distress symptoms.

Potential good news for bread… and bread lovers.

Peter Gibson, a professor and director of gastroenterology at The Alfred and Monash University in Australia followed up his 2011 study that found diets with gluten can cause gastrointestinal distress in people without celiac disease. He dubbed the condition “non-celiac gluten sensitivity.” (Then Dr. Oz talked about it, and it seemed as if everyone knew about it.)

But Gibson wasn’t satisfied with those results, because gluten is a protein found in any normal diet. He wondered why gluten seemed to cause a reaction in non-celiac patients, and if there was another culprit.

That spurred his recent research, which involved feeding 37 people a diet free of potential dietary triggers for gastrointestinal symptoms such as lactose, and certain fermentable, poorly absorbed short-chain carbohydrates. Then for nine days, he collected participants’ personal waste.

Without knowing which diet they were on — high-gluten, low-gluten and non-gluten diets — participants noticed that they experienced pain, bloating, nausea and gas.

“In contrast to our first study … we could find absolutely no specific response to gluten,” Gibson said. Another study published this month confirmed the findings.

The self-diagnosed gluten sensitive patients expected to feel worse on the study diets, so they did. They were also likely more attentive to any intestinal anguish because they monitored it for the study.

Gibson said that FODMAPs, the short-chain carbohydrates, disaccharides, monosaccharides and related alcohols, that were not well absorbed in the small intestine may be what’s causing the symptoms that people dub as gluten sensitivity. FODMAPs are commonly found in the same foods that contain gluten, but it still fails to explain why people in the study negatively reacted to diets that were free of all dietary triggers.

It doesn’t lead to any definitive conclusions, but it brings us one step closer to understanding what gluten does — and doesn’t — do in our bodies.

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