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People who suffer physical distress after eating wheat-based foods see their symptoms persist – even after eight years of abstaining from such foods. A recent study found that individuals who have a condition known as non-celiac wheat sensitivity (NCWS) exhibit some of the same distressing symptoms as those who have been diagnosed with celiac disease.

Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects about 1 percent of the population, damages the small intestine, leading to stomach issues, such as abdominal pain, diarrhea and bloating, as well as other conditions like fatigue and joint pain, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation.

People with celiac disease are affected when they eat gluten, a protein that’s found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. When a person experiences the same symptoms after consuming gluten yet does not test positive for celiac disease, they are thought to have NCWS, and research tells us that there are likely many more people with NCWS than celiac disease itself.

The current study looked at the effect of removing wheat products from the diet of people with NCWS over a long-term period. The researchers tracked 200 patients with NCWS for an average of eight years and gauged their symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition that flares up after they eat wheat.

Over the length of the study, the researchers discovered that the vast majority of patients with NCWS showed lower rates of incurring the stomach pains and symptoms associated with IBS when they avoided wheat completely.

“The improvement or very often disappearance of IBS symptoms was observed in more than 80 percent of the patients who maintained a wheat-free diet; these results underline the importance of correctly identifying NCWS patients, as the elimination diet definitively resolved their symptoms, a result that no medical treatment achieves in IBS patients,” Dr. Antonio Carroccio of the department of internal medicine at University of Palermo, Italy, told Healio Gastroenterology.

Over the span of the study, however, patients who intentionally went on a wheat-free diet saw their IBS-related symptoms crop up when they ate wheat by mistake – even after multiple years of wheat abstinence.

The researchers also found that virtually all – 98 percent – of NCWS patients reported at least some improvement of their symptoms when they went on a strict gluten-free diet. Additionally, 88 percent of patients who received a confirmed diagnosis of NCWS saw improvements to their physical health after receiving their diagnosis.

While the study sheds light on how NCWS patients can improve their physical wellness, the findings don’t necessarily translate to all individuals. “These findings cannot be attributed to all ‘people who avoid gluten,’” said Carroccio.

However, they remain a potent finding in the medical community’s unfolding understanding of how eating gluten impacts health – and in which individuals it affects.

Dr. G’s Takeaway

Gluten-free products are not the answer – lectin-free is! Make sure to eliminate not only wheat products but lectin bomb foods, such as seeds, nightshade veggies and legumes.

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