In our last post we talked about people who truly must avoid all gluten, or they get sick. These people have celiac disease, and it affects about 1% of the population. But there is another larger group of people, maybe 6% of the population, that doesn’t have celiac disease, but still they get symptoms when they consume gluten.
These people have what has recently been described as “Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity” (NGCS). Are you one of these people? These questions and answers will help you find out.
1. What does Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity mean?
These are people who get sick in some way after they eat foods containing gluten, but they do not have the potentially serious and possibly life-threatening condition called celiac disease, discussed in our last post.
2. What are the symptoms?
One reason people with NGCS are hard to diagnose is because their symptoms are so variable and “diffuse”, and these same symptoms can result from many other conditions. Common NGCS symptoms reported include: abdominal bloating, gas, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue, joint pain, numbness or tingling in extremities, balance or concentration problems, even depression. In children there may be more behavioral issues such as temper tantrums, as well as digestive symptoms including constipation rather than diarrhea.
3. What is the difference between celiac disease and NCGS?
The symptoms of celiac disease are usually worse and can lead to severe malnutrition from malabsorption. A person with NCGS who is never diagnosed will rarely become severely ill, but a person with celiac disease will get very sick if not treated.
And an intestinal biopsy in celiac disease will show characteristic inflammatory changes with flattening of the normally plush surface of the normal intestine. A biopsy of a person with NCGS will typically not show these changes.
4. What causes NCGS?
No one knows for sure why some people are so sensitive to gluten, but one thing is certain is that the incidence of NCGS (as well as celiac disease) has been rising the last few decades. Some theories: changes in grain farming including genetic modifications to improve crop yields; pesticides; possible contamination of gluten imported from China; greater hormone use among adults and children, and in agriculture.
5. What tests can be done to see if I have NCGS?
Unlike celiac disease—which has a specific blood test that usually will detect the problem—in NCGS, there is no blood test that is accurate to make a diagnosis.
In our next post, we will discuss how to identify if you might have NCGS and some hints how to live with gluten in your day to day.
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Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)