Have you ever been told that gluten sensitivity isn’t real? Have you heard people say this to you? I have. And whenever I hear statements like this, it, again, drives me to reading medical studies. 😉 The truth is, there is SO much proof that a gluten-free diet is good for SO many people, and SO many conditions, I will not be able to cover it all in this article.
This, friends, is what the research is saying. This is the truth of the matter. And there are also the millions of anecdotal stories about how a gluten-free diet has improved people’s lives, but let’s stick to research right now, for those left-brained people who want to know what the doctors and medical researchers say.
First of all medical researchers clearly define Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity as:
“…a condition in which gluten ingestion leads to morphological or symptomatic manifestations despite the absence of CD [Coeliac Disease].” source
They know, for example, that gluten causes gastrointestinal symptoms in subjects without Celiac Disease. This double-blind study showed what happened when people with self-reported gluten-sensitivity were exposed to gluten: “91% of patients had clinical relapse during gluten challenge versus 28.5% after placebo.”
“It is now becoming apparent that reactions to gluten are not limited to CD [Celiac Disease], rather we now appreciate the existence of a spectrum of gluten-related disorders. The high frequency and wide range of adverse reactions to gluten raise the question as to why this dietary protein is toxic for so many individuals in the world.”
The article goes on to mention the technological (not nutritional) changes that humans have created in wheat over the years, and how wheat today is very different (and much more toxic) than, for example, the wheat of the Middle Ages.
Another important piece of the gluten-sensitivity/Celiac puzzle that needs to be mentioned is that testing for Celiac Disease is not always accurate. This warrants a whole different post, and I promise to write it soon.
This means there are probably a lot of people who have Celiac Disease and are undiagnosed.
There are many people with varying symptoms and diseases that would benefit greatly from a gluten-free diet. Some of these people have diagnosed or undiagnosed Celiac Disease, and some of these people are just sensitive to gluten. Here is what the research says:
1. Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial Fibrillation is a disorder that causes an irregular heartbeat. People with Celiac Disease have an increased risk of Atrial Fibrillation. source
Patients with Autism improve by eating gluten-free. Yes, it’s true. Both behavioral and gastrointestinal symptoms significantly decrease in people with Autism when they avoid gluten. source, source Also, “Patients with Autism on a reported gluten-casein-free diet had significantly lower IPT [Intestinal Permeability] values compared with those who were on an unrestricted diet and controls.” source Intestinal Permeability is not good!
3. Autoimmune Diseases
If a person has Celiac Disease or is the first-degree relative of a patient with Celiac Disease, they have an increased chance of Arthritis, Juvenile Arthritis, Hypothyroidism, Insulin Dependent Diabetes, and Alopecia Areata. source Another study showed that not only are first-degree relatives of CD patients at risk for autoimmune diseases, but, also, the spouses of those wth Celiac Disease have increased incidences of autoimmune diseases. source Also, it should be noted that a gluten-free diet appears to have protective properties against the development of these autoimmune diseases. source
4. Bipolar Disorder
“Individuals with bipolar disorder had increased levels of IgG antibodies to gliadin [a component in gluten] compared with controls in multivariate analyses.” source
5. Cancer Susceptibility
There is evidence that there is a link between cancer susceptibility, especially digestive cancers, in those who are gluten-sensitive and have other food allergies. When gluten is removed from the diet, the susceptibility to cancer is greatly reduced or completely eradicated. source, source
Patients with Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity are less depressed when gluten is eliminated from their diet. source
There is a significant link between Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease, particularly in pediatrics. The link between the diagnosis of Diabetes and gluten sensitivity has been well-established by several studies, over decades. In fact, children who have Type 1 Diabetes should be tested for CD, regardless if they have any other symptoms of Celiac, or avoid gluten completely to see if their Diabetes improves. Simply avoiding gluten can decrease or completely eradicate Diabetes 1 symptoms in children. source, source, source Studies done on mice proved that mice that ate gluten had a 64% chance of Diabetes. Mice that ate a gluten-free diet had a reduced incidence of a 15% chance of Diabetes. Mice that were never fed gluten, either in uterus or in their diet, only had a 6% chance of ever developing Diabetes. source, source, source, source, source, source
People who have Epilepsy ought to try a gluten-free diet, and possibly be tested for Celiac Disease. In this study, Epileptic patients who were diagnosed with Celiac completely controlled their seizures by abstaining from gluten.
9. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
A gluten free diet rapidly improves GERD in patients with Celiac Disease. source
10. Heart Disease
A gluten free diet decreased aortic stiffness associated with CD. source
People with IBS have reduced symptoms with a gluten-free diet. “A large number of patients labelled as irritable bowel syndrome are sensitive to gluten,” according to this study. Also, this study showed that after eating gluten for only one week, patients with IBS had a clear increase in symptoms. This small study showed 1/3 of patients (out of a group of only 35 people) with IBS had wheat sensitivity.
“Patients of childbearing age having fertility problems may have subclinical NCGS [Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity] and they should be informed that the treatment of NCGS by a gluten free diet might improve their fertility.” source
And, “We suggest that celiac disease should be checked in infertile patients of unexplainable etiology with anemia, as just changing their diet can solve their fertility problem.” source
People with Celiac Disease have increased chance of mortality at lower ages than the general population. Consuming a gluten-free diet regularly changes these statistics, and patients with CD on a strict GFD have the same rates of mortality as the general population. source
14. Neurological Dysfunction
People who have numbness or weakness in their hands and/or feet (Peripheral Neuropathy), Cerebellar Ataxia, or Encephalopathy benefit from a gluten-free diet, regardless of whether they have Celiac Disease or not. source
15. Psychosis and Schizophrenia
Patients with Psychosis and Multiple Episode Schizophrenia ought to try a diet free of gluten, according to this study. Gluten consumption and intolerance is linked to Schizophrenia in many studies, including this one.
“A drastic reduction, if not full remission, of schizophrenic symptoms after initiation of gluten withdrawal has been noted in a variety of studies. However, this occurs only in a subset of schizophrenic patients.” source
It was even understood back in 1976 that gluten can create Schizophrenic episodes. source
16. Thyroid Disorders
People with Celiac Disease or who are the first-degree relative of a patient with CD have a significantly increased risk of hypothyroidism. source
Thyroid antibodies are “gluten-related antibodies,” meaning, when patients who have thyroid antibodies go on a gluten-free diet, the antibodies decrease or disappear completely. source
If you choose to eat gluten-free and you are not officially diagnosed with Celiac, you might find it funny to know that this study considers you a PWAWG (Patients Who Avoid Wheat/Gluten). I love it–I think I’ll voluntarily call myself a PWAWG from now on! 😉