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When Gluten-Free Is Not a Fad


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Gluten intolerance is “fake”—at least according to many recent news stories. But what does scientific research have to say on this topic? Is going gluten-free just a crazy fad? Is gluten intolerance over-hyped as the media claims, or is it a legitimate condition that may be even more common than currently recognized?

gluten tinnitus
How does removing gluten from your diet really affect your health? pepj/istock/Thinkstock

Over the last year or so, we’ve seen a glut of stories in the popular media suggesting that non-celiac gluten sensitivity (i.e. people that react to gluten but do not have celiac disease) is a myth:

Even late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel weighed in with a segment that got a lot of attention in both popular and social media.

Just after these stories were published, I wrote an article (“Is Gluten Sensitivity Real?”) showing how the authors grossly misinterpreted and misrepresented the research they claimed to be reviewing.

You can read my article to get the details, but here’s the takeaway: the study those stories were based on in no way disproved the existence of non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), nor did it overturn the large body of evidence that links NCGS to a variety of health problems ranging from type 1 diabetes, to allergies, to schizophrenia, to autism spectrum disorders. (1, 2, 3, 4)

Research shows gluten intolerance is real—and “science journalists” are clueless.

What struck me about those stories—aside from how embarrassing they are as examples of so-called “science journalism”—is how eager the general public seems to be to prove that gluten intolerance is an imaginary or fake condition. I’m not exactly sure why this is. Maybe it’s because gluten-containing foods and beverages like bread and beer have played such a central role in our culture for thousands of years. Or perhaps people simply distrust anything they perceive to be inauthentic or “faddish”.

What the Science Really Says about Gluten Intolerance

While I can relate to an aversion to fads (don’t get me started on Hipsters), and the gluten-free diet could in some ways be described as a fad, the consensus in the scientific literature is that non-celiac gluten sensitivity is a bona-fide condition with numerous—and potentially serious—manifestations. According to a recent review paper called “Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity: The New Frontier of Gluten Related Disorders”:

…a rapidly increasing number of papers have been published by many independent groups, confirming that GS [non-celiac gluten sensitivity] should be included in the spectrum of gluten-related disorders. (5)

Observational studies have linked gluten intolerance with a shockingly diverse range of symptoms and conditions, including:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (6)
  • Fibromyalgia (7)
  • Dermatitis and other skin conditions (8)
  • Multiple sclerosis (9)
  • Peripheral neuropathy, myopathy, and other neurological disorders (10)
  • Schizophrenia (11)
  • Depression (12)
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (13)
  • Ataxia (14)
  • Type 1 diabetes (15)
  • Autism spectrum disorders (16)
  • Ménière disease (17)
  • Endometriosis (18)
  • Insulin resistance and inflammation (19)

I could go on, but I think you get the point. If the authors of the “gluten intolerance is fake” articles had spent even five minutes examining the research, they would have seen numerous papers supporting the existence of non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

And they aren’t just observational studies; some of them are randomized clinical trials (RCTs), which are considered to be the gold standard of medical evidence. In fact, just last month, a new RCT was published that validated NCGS as a legitimate condition. (20) This was a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, and it had the additional benefit of a crossover design (which I’ll describe below).

The researchers enrolled 61 participants without celiac disease or wheat allergy, but with self-identified gluten intolerance. Subjects were then randomly assigned to two groups; one was given a capsule with 4.4 grams per day of gluten (roughly the amount in two slices of white bread), and the other was given a placebo capsule containing only rice starch. After one week of a gluten-free diet, participants then “crossed over” into the other group (those that received the gluten capsules during the first round got rice starch, and vice versa). Crossover studies are advantageous because each crossover participant serves as his or her own control, which reduces the likelihood of confounding variables influencing the results.

The researchers found that intake of gluten significantly increased symptoms—both intestinal symptoms like bloating and abdominal pain, and extra-intestinal symptoms like depression, brain fog, and canker sores—compared to placebo.

As you can see, despite the rash and uninformed claims you may have seen in the popular media, gluten intolerance is indeed a real condition and not just a figment of the imagination. (Of course, if you happen to be one of the people that suffers from gluten intolerance, you didn’t need me—or any study—to tell you that!)

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Why Gluten Intolerance Is Likely More Common Than Currently Estimated

Estimates for the prevalence of NCGS vary widely, ranging from 0.5% on the low end to 13% or higher on the high end. (21) However, there are three reasons why I believe NCGS is much more common than currently estimated:

  1. Current commercially-available tests (with one or two notable exceptions) are extremely limited and miss many people with gluten intolerance. Most conventional tests for gluten intolerance only screen for antibodies to a specific fraction of the gluten protein, alpha-gliadin. But we now know that people can (and do) react to several other components of wheat and gluten—including other epitopes of gliadin (beta, gamma, omega), glutenin, WGA and deamidated gliadin. I reviewed this subject in more detail in my previous article, 50 Shades of Gluten Intolerance
  2. Even the best serological (blood) testing is not 100 percent accurate. An elimination/provocation challenge, where gluten is removed from the diet for 60–90 days, and then reintroduced, is still the gold standard for diagnosing gluten intolerance. However, many physicians are unaware of this and thus do not suggest it to their patients.
  3. Many physicians and patients only suspect—and therefore test for—gluten intolerance when digestive symptoms are present. However, both gluten intolerance and celiac disease can present without any gut symptoms, and only extra-intestinal symptoms like ataxia, schizophrenia, dermatitis, or neuropathy. In fact, the majority of patients with neurological manifestations of gluten sensitivity have no gastrointestinal symptoms! (22) In the case of celiac disease, which has been better studied than NCGS so far, about 30 percent of newly diagnosed patients do not have gut symptoms, and for every new case that is diagnosed, there are 6.4 cases that are undiagnosed—the majority of which are atypical or “silent” forms without gut symptoms. (23, 24)

When you put all of this together, it is almost certain that NCGS is far more prevalent than the current estimates suggest it is.

Is Removing Gluten from Your Diet Dangerous?

A common objection to gluten-free diets that we often hear from conventional dietitians and physicians is that they are somehow unsafe or dangerous. This is presumably because foods that contain gluten contain some magic ingredient that humans cannot live without.

The most glaring problem with this argument is the simple fact that humans have only been consuming gluten for the past 11,000 years or so, which represents a tiny fraction of our evolutionary history. That’s about 367 generations, compared to the 66,000 generations we evolved in an environment without gluten or cereal grains.

The second problem with this argument is that even whole grains are not very nutrient dense. In fact, when compared with other foods like organ meats, fish, meats, vegetables, and fruits, whole grains are at the bottom of the list. (25) As you’d suspect, refined grains (like flour) are even lower. This is significant because 85 percent of the grain consumed in the US is in the highly refined form, and refined flour accounts for approximately 20 percent of calories consumed by the average American. (26)

Finally, studies that have assessed the nutritional quality of gluten-free diets have, not surprisingly, found that they are not lacking in any necessary nutrient. (27) If anything, people on a gluten-free diet are more likely to increase their intake of essential nutrients, especially if they replace breads and other flour products with whole foods (rather than with gluten-free flour alternatives).

Final Thoughts

In my book, The Paleo Cure (previously published as Your Personal Paleo Code), I argued that there are three categories of response to gluten:

  • Tolerance
  • Non-celiac gluten sensitivity, aka “gluten intolerance”
  • Celiac disease

I don’t believe that gluten is responsible for all chronic illness in all people, as some have seemed to suggest. But I think the research clearly supports the existence non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and if anything, it is significantly under-diagnosed.

One of my favorite alternate titles I considered for this article was “Gluten Intolerance Is Not Fake, But Science Journalists Are”. It was disheartening to see so many sensational and poorly researched news stories making the claim that gluten intolerance is not a legitimate condition. Not only were those authors wrong, they were irresponsible and failed to do even the most basic background research about the subject they were writing about. This should be yet another reminder to take what you read in the popular health media with a large grain of salt.

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    • It doesn’t contradict anything I’ve written here. There was a statistically significant difference between gluten and placebo in the RCT. But even if there were not, when evaluating a question like this you have to look at the bulk of the evidence, which is what my point is—and what I’ve done in this article, and others.

  1. It is still truly amazing that most physicians continue to deny gluten as a problem when faced with the onslaught of scientific fact, but we’ve seen that before (cholesterol and heart disease?). All my chronic patients have improved after going gluten free. What more proof is needed? Too bad “big food” has just as much influence as “big pharma”, and sometimes they are one and the same!

  2. Chris, I have no dog in this race and am still on the fence on whether gluten sensitivity is real or not. I’ve read Fasano papers etc. that link gluten to zonulin and intestinal permeability in vitro. So theoretically it could be a real and it’s certainly plausible. That said, none of the RCTs have provided good evidence to support the hypothesis – and many would suggest gluten is not the real culprit.

    That also goes for the Di Sabatino et al. paper you mentioned here. Disclaimer, I didn’t get access to the PDF through my university and haven’t read the full text. But Alan Argon pointed out some massive flaws in the paper in his recent research review issue. Specifically:

    – The researchers used wrong statistical test and had they used the correct test the results probably wouldn’t have been significant.
    – The study smells like a fishing expedition. They did 28 comparisons and found ‘significant’ differences in only 5. It’s not clear that they corrected for multiple comparisons.
    – 22 out of 29 patients experienced higher symptom scored during the placebo period and 44 out of 59 were classified as having ‘low’ symptom score. So we see that most people with self-declared gluten sensitivity had no problems with gluten.
    – Only 3 people out of 56 experienced strong symptoms, as per the criteria set by the researchers, during the gluten period, meaning that 53 people got no or mild symptoms.

    Assuming that the criticism is correct, I don’t see this paper providing strong evidence for non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

    I have to say that I don’t doubt that people get better when they remove gluten from their diet. It just seems that it could be something else in gluten containing foods that caused the symptoms.

    • This may be the latest Fasano paper (Feb 2015):
      MDPI/Nutrients: Effect of Gliadin on Permeability of Intestinal Biopsy Explants from Celiac Disease Patients and Patients with Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

      “This study demonstrates that gliadin exposure induces an increase in intestinal permeability in all individuals, regardless of whether or not they have celiac disease.”

      • I love Fasano’s work, and don’t dispute his finding. However, there is the question of clinical significance. Drinking alcohol regularly also increases intestinal permeability, yet moderate alcohol consumption is almost always associated with positive outcomes in observational studies. The gut is a very dynamic organ, and can go from being permeable to impermeable in a matter of moments. That’s it’s job. The problem is if it gets stuck in the permeable state.

        Although Fasano has written these papers showing that gliadin/gluten causes intestinal permeability even in healthy people, he does not believe that all people should avoid gluten. Here is an excerpt from an interview I did with him on my podcast a couple years ago:

        We identified two fragments, one of the gluten components, it’s called gliadin, that when introduced to epithelial cells they induce, like for bacteria, zonulin release. And this, again, happens to everybody. What is the difference between everybody and the people that develop a problem with gluten like celiac disease is that while for me, for example, because I don’t have a problem. I eat a Big Mac. I have gluten in there. These fragments release zonulin, which increases permeability. Stuff comes through, including gluten. My immune system that is tuned to do the job right will clean up the mess, and I will not even know that all that happened. Also because this open-and-close is short. It’s a matter of minutes that it will open and a matter of minutes that will turn to be closed. People with celiac disease, on the other hand, when they do something like that, not only do they have much more zonulin produced than I do, but also the opening is much more prolonged because these doors get stuck open, and therefore you give much more time for substances from the environment, including gluten, to come through. And now on this other side, you find this immune system that is not tuned to do the job right, and when they see this enemy, they start to mount an immune response to attack your own body, and that leads to celiac disease.

        You can listen to the full interview here. I highly recommend it.

        • Chris, thank for the reply.

          Re: The gut is a very dynamic organ, and can go from being permeable to impermeable in a matter of moments. That’s it’s job. The problem is if it gets stuck in the permeable state.

          … or is merely held at permeable chronically by diet.

          The typical modern diet is a continuous provocation by gluten-bearing grains, and probably other leak-enabling agents. Back when the USDA would admit what was in the MyPlateOfMetabolicSyndrome, they were advocating 60% of calories from carbs, and most of that from “healthy whole grains”, which basically means runt mutant goat grass (misleadingly sold to us as “semi-dwarf hybrid wheat”). It’s in the majority of processed foods.

          Anyone not paying detailed attention is consuming modern wheat continuously.

          Eating heirlooms is no real help either. There was yet another trial lately of kamut vs. modern wheat that showed once again, that heirlooms are slightly safer than modern (and both got beat by rice this time, which although GF, is far from completely benign).

          There are close protein mimics to gliadin in barley, rye and corn as well. When Monsanto doesn’t get the results suppressed, there are also concerns about gut impacts from novel GMO crop genetics and the pesticide uptake that they enable.

          Re: Although Fasano has written these papers showing that gliadin/gluten causes intestinal permeability even in healthy people, he does not believe that all people should avoid gluten.

          I know that about him, but when I look at his research, it screams “precautionary principle”.

          Why eat grains at all? Where is the double-blind cross-over peer-reviewed science supporting any RDA at all for grains? The only unconfounded science we appear to have says “eat something else”. The personal testimonials are striking. The re-exposure horror stories are jaw-dropping. But these are mere anecdote, dismissed by formal science that sees nothing worth patenting, and dismissed by consensus medicine who were taught by omission that diet doesn’t matter anyway.

          One thing we seem to never hear from the NCGS skeptics is: “sure, eliminate all sources of gluten for your diet for a month and see what happens.”

          And oh by the way, give careful thought to what, if anything, you replace those calories with. Most processed GF foods are high-glycemic junk (and that part of the GF phenomenon really is a fad).

  3. Anyone who is sensitive to gluten should also GET TESTED FOR PARASITES! I had to go GF and sugar free for many years as when I ate any food containing these my stomach would bloat up like i was 3 months pregnant. I had bad IBS symptoms. I was finally diagnosed with D Fragilis a gut/bowel bacteria. Under my Dr we cleared it with antibiotics, antiparasitic herbs, change of diet & continuing healing leaky gut. And now I am like a new person! back to a nice flat stomach & no IBS. I am from Australia where there is a 100% accurate test for 10 x types of parasites. Its called the Feacal Multiplex PCR test. I dont know if you have anything as accurate in the USA as it was developed in Australia. But this is an area that more people need to get tested for & treated. It was a relief for me & my son as we both had it. Our iron & b12 levels are back to normal. before that I had to have shots as the D Fragilis was taking all of my iron & b12. my health has skyrocketed now 🙂 Just wanted to share. Good health to you out there!

  4. Whenever someone tells me that gluten intolerance isn’t real, I first ask them if they have ever removed it from their diet to test it. I then tell them that I have, and I know for a fact that when I eat it, I get sick. So whatever side of science they want to side with, I tell them that all I know is I get extremely sick when I eat anything with gluten.

  5. i have asked this elsewhere, and it would be an excellent question for those writing articles that treat “gluten free” as a pejorative:

    Is there a single relevant scientific study that demonstrates in any way that not eating wheat or grain is detrimental to health? Anywhere?

    That’s it. If it isn’t detrimental not to eat it, what is the problem?

    • Please don’t take this as an attack against you or your position. I’m simply giving friendly criticism to your statement.

      Whether or not eating wheat and grains is detrimental to health is irrelevant here. You are both shifting the burden of proof and making a logically fallacy of moving the goal posts.

      First, people who claim have gluten is a problem outside of celiac disease have to provide evidence for their claims. That’s how science works. It’s not for the skeptics to prove the negative.

      Secondly, what you are saying here, in essence, is that it doesn’t matter what the science says on this. Not eating wheat and grains is not harmful anyway.

      While one could argue that not eating wheat and grains is not unhealthy to people in rich countries, and it could even be healthy for many. But what about people in poor countries. People who don’t have access to the same variety of foods we have.

      One could also argue that grains are probably crucial for humanity’s food safety. They provide cheap and storable source of calories. It’s probably much harder and more expensive to store other foods. Also, I’m not sure we could grow enough calories to feed humanity without grains.

      So not eating grains could be very damaging ecologically.

      • What what what? Grains become sustainable…there’s a bunch of evidence that enlights how grains are actually destroying the planet! Poor people are like that because the domination machine exploited them and their lands and now we are forcing our junk food to them leading to the need of big pharna as well. Of course there’s a growing business around them. We are too many beings on the planet and the uncontrolled need for grain cultivation is only worsening the problem. The only solution now is getting back to the grasslands and the grassfed breeding.

      • Seppo,

        I totally understand where you are coming from on a science, black and white facts, but as a functional doctor and helping many patients with their health issues, many stemming from changing their diet and helping the destructive tissue heal, has been nothing short of a miracle to these people. I have myself have had horrible GI problems which was all related back to Gluten and parasites. Is everyones problem the same? No, and that is why we are doctors of cause. Some patients may have a mold issue in conjugation with a food sensitivity, giving them a non GI relates symptom. I believe the issue in the accumulation of our environment (foods, water, air, other toxins), genetic predisposition, and stress. Everyone chemical experiment is unique. But the Gluten*wheat*Glyophate issue is real and will only get worse.

        • Dr Joe,

          Let me just put it out there that I eat almost no wheat or grains. I also have gut issues and eating grains more than occasionally causes a lot of issues. Nothing serious but certainly enough to realize there’s a problem.

          I don’t doubt that grains cause issues for some people. My beef is with that people seem so fixated on gluten intolerance and proving that it’s real. As I stated in one of my other comments, it’s certainly plausible that non-celiac gluten intolerance is real. But most RCTs, the only studies that can really answer the question, come back negative. Which raises the possibility that it could be something else in grains that causes the problems.

          Why does this matter? If you tell people that they have to avoid gluten, and the real problem is something else in wheat/grains. These go ahead and buy gluten-free bread made of wheat.. well, you see where we have a problem.

  6. My daughter originally would throw fits and lose control of her emotions when she was exposed to gluten. I hate it took us a year to figure it out. Our family and close friends accept it mostly but I have a few friends that took pleasure in sharing the gluten is fake stories. She now is showing 3 of 5 of the tics for tic disorder which again almost disappeared after removing dairy.
    I, like most, was do excited to feel this good and wanted to share the news but mostly just prefer to eat quietly and lead by example.

  7. A few years ago, I was suddenly paralyzed and unable to move for a week. After extensive testing, my doctor discovered and so explained to me that my body “maxed out” on both gluten and dairy and said that I should no longer eat either in order to regain my health. Since then, I’ve eaten neither and have noticed a tremendous difference in my energy levels, cognitive abilities, and overall health. When someone tells me that the sensitivity isn’t real, I usually look them dead in the face and say, “Cancer isn’t real either.” This usually shuts them up.

  8. In the Fall of 2012, I developed a slight stiffness in my back. Within weeks my condition worsened to the point that my left leg partially paralyzed. I went to a series of doctors and eventually was diagnosed with primary lateral sclerosis (a condition closely related to ALS) by three of the top neurology centers in the country. I was told that there was no cure and no treatment. I read on-line that a neurologist in the UK had linked unexplained neurological problems to gluten sensitivity and began a gluten-free diet. After seeing Dr Terry Wahls’ TedX discussing how a Paleo diet reversed her MS symptoms, I expanded to a full Paleo diet myself. Over the past 2 years my condition has continued to improve, and within 8 months of beginning the diet I was able to discard my wheel chair, walker, and cane.

    • That’s so crazy! I wasn’t given a diagnosis, nor was I ever confined to a wheel chair, but I too would experience random bouts of paralysis throughout my entire body, sometimes resulting in the loss of consciousness.

  9. I wonder if a big part of gluten intolerance today is related to the fact that many of our gluten containing foods; especially breads , are made to yield 50 or more times the amount of gluten than normal. The food industry had a lot to answer .

  10. I’m a nutrition student at a major college and the undergraduates in the food science program went CRAZY over these articles online. They ate it up like gravy. A really alarming amount of people were just gleeful to have an excuse to tell people they were being stupid and faddish for eating gluten-free. It was obvious when those articles came out that it was a sentiment that had been bubbling for a long time and really resonated with a lot of people. I think they felt personally insulted by the idea that other people have fundamentally different needs than they do. I have noticed an attitude among some in the allegedly ‘pro-science’ community where health food has come to be viewed as anti-science or as junk science that threatens ‘real science’ somehow. Some people who are really attached to their junk foods have this kind of mentality, where you’re committing some crime against society if you don’t just eat ‘normal food’. I suppose they think us health food nazis are coming to take away everyone’s toys and they have to fight back. I find it extra ironic that research tends to be on health food’s side, yet these are usually the same people who will say it’s wrong not to follow the modern medicine method 100% because it’s backed by Science and Research. Obviously, we really have lost the meaning behind those terms.

    • Easier to go along with the group and to think less.
      Some people resent others that take a responsibility for their own health and don’t eat ‘normal’. They don’t want to feel bad about their inability to ditch their comfort foods. They don’t want to go to the extra effort of not eating processed rubbish. They don’t like having their belief system challenged – it seems to scare them on some level to think that a lot of what they believe is wrong. They resist thinking for themselves. Some have an inferiority complex because of struggling to understand things and choose to disbelieve them instead.
      A lot of people just don’t seem to ‘get’ that everyone is physiologically different to them and will react to different things.

    • The concept of “biochemical individuality” has been lost somewhere in the past We humans are alike, yet we are different. What helps one person can sicken another. Jack eats peanuts as a great snack, Alex eats peanuts and immediately vomits. When Functional Medicine practitioners listen to individuals, their symptom, diet patterns, family history, along with blood tests and etc. something amazing happens. When people are treated as individuals, they get better, healthier, Biochemical individuality is real. That means one-size-fits-all medicine dispensed by big pharma, medical schools, and journalists, is wrong, misguided, and needs to go! P.S.Add Hashimoto’s (autoimmune thyroid disease) to your list. Hashimoto’s patients should try a gluten free, dairy free, soy free plan. It will help some individuals!

    • Well stated, both Grace and gh!

      Grace, you happen to be in an environment where you can study the responses quite well and I appreciated your view on this.

      I think gh has nailed the reason we see the non-believers react with relief on hearing information that more aligns with their beliefs. It’s about belief systems. Not just a few people though. I happen to believe, after a lot of reading on this subject, that we ALL suffer from belief system superiority over logic. Superiority in that beliefs tend to take precedence, instinctively, and protectively. We are wired that way. Logic takes a back seat to beliefs, especially when time is of the essence, and who isn’t short on time to really mull matters and give an honest look at new data?

      A great book to read on this is “Blink”. It confirms what gh says: it scares “them on some level to think that a lot of what they believe is wrong.” I’ll just add, it scares all of us to think that what we believe is wrong. It’s very time-consuming to re-arrange a considerable section of the mental associations you’ve made regarding a subject. It’s scary to contemplate having to do that. It’s far easier to “just keep believing”.

      If one doesn’t believe this, just consider how you would feel if the other side here had much more convincing arguments than what Chris and his sources had produced. Consider what it would be like to have to abandon the NCGS belief thanks to truly convincing contrary evidence. It would be tough on all of us. New beliefs would have to be forged. One can’t just adopt new beliefs in a matter of minutes. A lot of mental gymnastics are involved. It’s downright painful.

      We feel superior in this particular contest, due to our beliefs not being challenged substantially. But I don’t think we are superior in terms of mental capacity to those wishing to debunk NCGS. I honestly feel for those defending wheat as a safe food. Probably, if they can live long enough, they all will be swallowing a bitter pill at some time in the future, and it will take quite a while to digest.

  11. I think it IS a fad for some, but I do believe that for many, wheat is just not such a good idea, never was, certainly not in the quantities we tend to consume it now as opposed to the occasional handful of grains likely consumed by our ancestors.

  12. I spent years with terrible excema all over my hands. The backs of them were cracked, bleeding and weeping. And both stingy and sooo itchy!! I had to wear gloves to bed at night to stop myself tearing at them in my sleep. I tried steroid creams, natural creams, nutritional supplements, wore gloves when cleaning. Nothing worked and I spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars trying to fix it.

    Then I gave up bread and grain food when I went “Paleo” and lo and behold! Yes, the excema went away. It took a few false starts, but eventually the connection started to become very obvious.

    When I would still have gluten grains on occasion and if over a few days, the bubbling in my skin on my fingers started and the red patches came up on my hands. It is not psychosomatic. It is physical and it is real.

    Now I no longer want to eat that food group and find it very easy to say no. And I feel much better for it.

    Who wants to eat poison?!

    • I was a few months into full paleo when I realized my eczema had disappeared. It is something I’ve had my entire life prior with regularly almost daily/weekly dry skin, bleeding, itching, etc. I’ve wrecked many clothes and bed sheets over the years. I’d sometimes claw for hours in my sleep and wake up with torn up skin. Now it is entirely 100% gone.

      I have tried many lotions and medications over the years. While some would provide a little relief, it was only partial or temporary. Now I don’t even use lotion, and my skin is healthier than ever. I was even surprised when people would start commenting on how good my skin looks. I didn’t really notice it myself since it was a gradual change.

      What a great benefit of eating paleo because I didn’t even know I was going to cure eczema doing it.

    • Helen,
      Your story reflects mine as well. The rash appeared on only 3 fingers on my right hand – very odd – no doctor could explain it. The change in diet was what seemed to cure it. I’ve been symptom-free since July 2014. I also noticed some “bonus” benefits – losing weight and my allergies have disappeared! I used to get itchy eyes and other symptoms (even with allergy meds) when I was around animals. Now I can actually spend hours on end with them (no meds either) 🙂 I’m happy for your healing!

  13. And yes, I’m constantly dealing with deniers. I’m very discrete about my gluten intolerance -it effects me but it usually wears off by the next day.

    I don’t bring it up in social circles – because you get mocked.

    My son is much more sensitive. We had someone feed him gluten to prove to us that it was all in our head.

    He had a migraine that night and got sick.

    Needless to say, those aren’t people we plan on being around anymore.

    • Mike, the wide misperception has got so bad that some people are lumping all gluten “claims” together. We had a neighbor do the same ‘all in your head’ test to me…and I’m celiac! I’m one of the lucky ones whose digestive system reacts strongly and quickly (this actually is lucky, weaker reaction means a celiac patient may continue to eat the stuff until their gut celia are flattened/irreparably damaged, they’ve been malabsorbing long enough to get severe definciencies, etc). So as it happened, I reacted while we were still at their barbeque. My husband sued them in our local town court, most of our neighbors shunned them. They moved away the next year.

      • oh my goodness! how did you find out what they had done? I’m so glad you took action! You should make a blog post of your story and post the documents (redacted if you have to) to show the world! A lot of people could really benefit from your story.

  14. Chris – you are a national treasure. You should have ended this post with “Drops the mic”.

  15. Among all people eating gluten free, I think there is a large gluten free fad which may contribute to the perception that gluten sensitivity is not real. I think for some people it is fun and cool to say “I’m gluten free.” Like a cool new diet to try. But I don’t find much relevance to that and the potential for gluten senstivity, what is relevant is the realclearscience piece, second to last, where research suggests some “gluten sensitivity” may actually be FODMAP sensitivity. This piece does not support the assertion that anyone is quick to discard gluten sensitivity without reason. Far from it, the piece appears to try to explain it at a deeper level. I think there is a lot we do not know right now, but just as we should not be quick to dismiss gluten sensitivity, we should not be quick to dismiss that FODMAPs may be actual problem for many, not simply gluten. We eat largely gluten free because when we tried it and stopped eating those processed carbs (bread/pasta) 15 lbs melted away for me in a few months, and in about 2 weeks the difference was noticeable in my then 3yo daughter (her rib cage showed up). I don’t think we are gluten sensitive as we still enjoy some naan or pita on occasion when eating out.

    • The Gibson paper that all of these articles were based on did not prove that gluten isn’t an issue in IBS patients, or that FODMAPs were entirely responsible for their symptoms. The patients in that trial experienced a resolution of symptoms on a gluten-free diet while continuing to ingest FODMAPs from other sources, like legumes (which are a much richer source of FODMAPs than wheat).

      That said, is it possible that some patients with IBS are reacting to FODMAPs rather than gluten? Of course. Does that disprove the existence of gluten intolerance in people with IBS, or all other people? Of course not—and that’s what those articles claimed.

      Also, it’s worth noting that from a practical perspective, FODMAP and gluten intolerance will lead to the same outcome: removal of wheat products from the diet.

      • Gluten and Fodmap was a pain in the butt for me. It meant I had to eliminate foods that I enjoyed. I had to find a balance because the non food groups activated more pain which lead to further harm IBS/D. I accept Gluten food not as a diet, rather that I have no choice if I want to live a peaceful life.

      • The Gibson study actually removed people with DQ2/DQ8 and others who had an immune response to wheat.

        The study still concluded 8% had NCGS and Gibson went on to to another study that showed gluten was causative in causing depressive symptoms.

    • It is not cool to say I am gluten free. It is life. I had various test that indicated issues, which lead to an investigation and possible surgery. Gluten free food allows me to eat more food with no pain. I can enjoy every moment. Those who are not gluten free will never understand.

  16. With Alzheimer’s disease sometimes called “diabetes of the brain,” and PCOS sometimes called “diabetes of the ovaries,” I wonder if it’ll be long before all the NCGS conditions will have new names:

    Rheumatoid arthritis will be “celiac of the joints.”
    MS will be “celiac of the nerve cells.”
    Schizophrenia & ADHD will be “celiac of the brain.”

    It would be good, in a way, because it would remind people of the connection between gluten and those conditions, in the same way that “diabetes of the brain” connects insulin/glucose to Alzheimer’s. I don’t think gluten is the *only* factor in those conditions, but it’s certainly a major (perhaps even the primary) contributor.

    • We already seen that gluten stimulate zonulin whether one is celiac or not, zunulin is related to leaky gut and leaky gut is related to autoimmune disease. I’m wondering, according to this, everyone should be gluten “intolerant”, why are we still here arguing about it? If this is true, how can we say that there are people who tolerate gluten? It seems to me all the other way round.

      • Technically – no one can properly digest gluten as we don’t have an enzyme in the body to break it down. This applies to everyone – NCGS, Celiac and regular folks too.

        • Mike, you are right, we homo sapiens, like any other mammal on earth, don’t own the enzyme to properly cut the binding between proline and glutammine, i.e. gliadine and casein, thus it’s really astounding to me to hear about such issue. We are not birds and that’s all, it doesn’t take any high science to understand it. We become so slave than the “latest” fake study to deny the evidence, is it actual science or following the blindness of some scientist, who deny the evidence for the sake of someone’s business? Folks look at the evidence.

  17. It’s good to hear you are already defending the deeper science on gluten, Chris. This attack from the popular science writers is bound to continue.

    You said you were not exactly sure why the general public seems to be eager “to prove that gluten intolerance is an imaginary or fake condition”. I agree with your conclusions though. We must remember that this whole counterattack is probably being funded by the organizations that profit from the status quo consisting of people feasting on empty calories and getting degenerative conditions.

    I’ve found recently that a twin of this attack on us gluten-phobes is the attack on the low-carb clan. I’d swear it’s funded by big-Ag and big-Pharma. There are more and more bloggers out there these days talking hard to re-interest people in the safety of eating sugar. It’s only slightly insidious. But consistently they claim that the closer to simple sugars you ingest your carbohydrates, the better off you are. It also steps totally around discussing sugar addiction, A1c implications, the value of carbohydrates bound in fiber, etc.

    Most of these pro-sucrose bloggers got their initial ideas from Ray Peat, and have offered little new science to back up their claims. In fact, they offer hardly any science, but, just as for the supporters of gluten, they can quickly find a willing audience of believers.

    Keep up the good work.

  18. “This should be yet another reminder to take what you read in the popular health media with a large grain of salt.”

    Don’t do that! Salt is deadly! 😉