Why would researchers look to find a biological marker for gluten sensitivity? It is believed approximately 3.3 million Americans (about 1%) have celiac disease.
Industry analysis indicates that exponentially more people, about 36 million Americans, adhere to a gluten free diet.
The variance, while due in part to fad dieting, can largely be attributed to non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).
NCGS often causes symptoms similar to celiac disease but absent an autoimmune response (without any damage to the lining of the gut).
Up until now, the only benchmark you or your doctor had to identify NCGS was that you felt crappy when you ate gluten and felt better when you didn’t eat it.
Obviously that’s a very subjective standard and quite difficult to measure.
Some concerns with using symptoms as a gauge are that you may not be able to discern any symptoms clearly or consistently and, on the flip side of the coin, the placebo effect.
A placebo is something (shot, pill, etc.) that appears to be medical treatment, but isn’t. They’re often used in clinical trials.
An example would be that everyone in a trial is given a pill, but half the pills are simply sugar pills (placebos).
This allows scientists to measure the effect of the actual medicine on people and compare that to people who didn’t receive the medicine.
However, there is a known placebo effect that can result from this.
The placebo effect is an advantageous result some people will experience due to their belief that they’re receiving an effective treatment, even though they aren’t.
GLUTEN FREE DIET FOR THE NON-SENSITIVE
There is a lot of discussion in both the health industry and the food industry as to whether or not healthy people (meaning people without celiac disease or NCGS) should avoid gluten.
A lot of people claim that avoiding gluten if you’re healthy is beneficial and just as many claim it’s detrimental.
So some researchers decided that the first step should be to determine whether or not there’s a way to truly identiy if a person has NCGS, instead of just guessing.
Because if you know someone truly needs to avoid gluten, then the rest of the argument (placebo effect, beneficial, detrimental, etc.) doesn’t matter.
BIOLOGICAL MARKER FOR GLUTEN SENSITIVITY
Researchers in Italy at the San Mateo Hospital at the University of Pavia have determined there is in fact a biological marker for gluten sensitivity and that it can be measured effectively with an ALCAT test.
“The Alcat Test measures individual responses to foods and other substances at the cellular level and may reveal the underlying trigger of certain symptoms.”
What does that mean? It means scientists have figured out a way to present food (like gluten) directly to your living immune cells to measure if the food causes a response. (To be clear, the ALCAT test does not measure food allergies, intolerances, or IgG antibodies. It only measures sensitivities).
They then send you a color coded report explaining your results. This information will allow you to work with your doctor or dietician to figure out if there are food you should avoid or perhaps foods you should eat more often.
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the advice or attention of heath-care professionals. This information is for educational purposes only. All information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions.