As awareness of celiac disease and the gluten-free diet has grown, patients have presented at doctor’s offices with severe abdominal issues, neurological complications, and other symptoms that look like celiac disease, but have not tested positive for celiac or wheat allergies.

The real risks

In July 2016, a team of researchers at Columbia University Medical Center confirmed that wheat exposure in this group is triggering a systemic immune reaction and intestinal cell damage. It is estimated that the impacted population is similar to individuals with celiac disease; about 1 in 100 people worldwide.

“There is some ambiguity there, which is why we are referring to it as non-celiac wheat sensitivity for now.”

The study has not confirmed that gluten is triggering the immune reaction as is the case with celiac disease. According to head researcher of the study, Dr. Armin Alaedini, “There is some ambiguity there, which is why we are referring to it as non-celiac wheat sensitivity for now.”

Ending doubts

We now have physical evidence to explain what hundreds of thousands of patients have rightly asserted, but has too often been dismissed: Wheat is making them sick, even though they do not have celiac.

As with celiac, we must persist in our efforts to educate the community and healthcare providers in order to increase the diagnosis rate and limit the suffering and potential long-term damage to body and mind. We must continue to facilitate and fund research to find treatments and a cure for the millions who are suffering from celiac disease and non-celiac wheat sensitivity.