People with celiac disease have a difficult time figuring out if they’ve had exposure to gluten when they rely solely on physical symptoms.
A Mayo Clinic doctor, Amanda K. Cartee, and her colleagues conducted a gluten challenge to see if people with celiac disease could ascertain if they had been exposed to gluten or not.
According to Dr. Cartee, “Currently there is no FDA-approved test to confirm gluten exposure. Thus patients with celiac disease rely on symptoms as an indicator of gluten exposure. Many patients on a gluten free diet describe non-specific and functional gastrointestinal symptoms which may be related to gluten exposure.”
The test consisted of patients being arbitrarily given either a placebo or a suspension with gluten in it. Participants filled out a survey to measure their baseline state of health.
They then answered questions every half hour or so for the first 6 hours, and answered questions daily for a few days. A specific question each time was whether or not they had ingested gluten.
Of the 7 participants in the study, just 2 who were given the gluten were able to correctly diagnose their health condition.
It took 1 person an entire day to analyze their health symptoms as indicative of gluten ingestion. The second individual gave mixed feedback throughout the course of the study.
From the gluten challenge they conducted, the most frequent manifestations of gluten exposure were abdominal pain and nausea.
Interestingly, there was no measurable difference in the expression of illness in the people who were given gluten and those who were not.
The takeaway from the study is that: 1) since glutening symptoms are based on a person’s determined experience rather than fact and 2) because the symptoms are inexact, it follows that signs of illness are not a dependable means to determine gluten exposure.
Cartee’s conclusion is that, “We really need an objective means to identify gluten-related symptoms, particularly in our patients with celiac disease with ongoing gastrointestinal symptoms.”
You can read the article published by helio gastroenterology discusses the issue and cites the research published at the American College of Gastroenterology Annual Meeting here.