People with non-celiac wheat sensitivity experience symptoms similar to those of celiac disease, which resolve when gluten is removed from the diet. However, they do not test positive for celiac disease.
Some people experience symptoms found in celiac disease, such as “foggy mind”, depression, ADHD-like behavior, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, bone or joint pain, and chronic fatigue when they have gluten in their diet, yet do not test positive for celiac disease. The terms non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) and non-celiac wheat sensitivity (NCWS) are generally used to refer to this condition, when removing gluten from the diet resolves symptoms.
Until now it was thought that people with NGCS/NCWS only experienced symptoms and did not have any intestinal damage. However, in July 2016, a team of researchers at Columbia University Medical Center, published a study confirming that wheat exposure in this group is, in fact, triggering a systemic immune reaction and accompanying intestinal cell damage. It is estimated that the impacted population is equal to or even exceeds the number of individuals with celiac disease (the vast majority of whom remain undiagnosed).
At this point, research has not confirmed that gluten is the culprit 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.” He explains that “more studies are needed to understand the mechanism and identify the molecular triggers responsible for the breach of the intestinal barrier and the associated symptoms in affected patients.”
There are more than 200 symptoms associated with celiac disease, which makes diagnosis difficult. A significant percentage of people with celiac disease, both adults and children, have no or minimal symptoms.
CDF offers a Symptoms Checklist to help you and your physician determine if you should be tested for celiac disease.
Who Should Be Screened for Celiac Disease?
According the the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University Medical Center, “anyone who suffers from an unexplained, stubborn illness for several months, should consider celiac disease a possible cause and be properly screened for it.”
First-degree relatives (parent, child, sibling) should also be screened since they have a 1 in 10 risk of developing celiac disease compared to the general population risk of 1 in 100.
Finding the Right Doctor
Celiac Disease Foundation can help you find the right doctor to discuss symptoms, diagnose, and treat celiac disease. Our nationwide Healthcare Practitioner Directory lists primary care physicians and specialists,and dietitians and mental health professionals, experienced in celiac disease and non-celiac wheat sensitivity.