Suffering from gluten intolerance? Know the reasons behind

Gluten intolerance, also known as gluten sensitivity or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), is an immune disorder that is triggered by an environmental agent like a gluten component of wheat and other cereals in genetically predisposed individuals. The first and second-degree relatives have a high chance of getting gluten sensitivity than people with no family history.

Health Shots got in touch with Dr Pramod V Satya, Consultant-Internal medicine, Manipal Hospital, Miller Road, Bengaluru, and Dr Shuchin Bajaj, Internal Medicine Specialist and founder of Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals, to understand the reasons behind gluten intolerance.

Symptoms of gluten intolerance

Even though people with gluten sensitivity have a lot of symptoms of malabsorption such as diarrhea, steatorrhea or sticky stools, gas, bloating, weight loss and nutritional deficiency, a majority of gluten-insensitive people do not present many symptoms, and the disease is often considered a very silent one, says Dr Satya. Gluten insensitivity is also associated with several other autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, thyroid disease, autoimmune dermatitis, and IGA nephropathy.

Gluten allergy is also known as celiac disease. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

She further goes on to add that the main concern with these patients is that they are at an increased risk of developing gastrointestinal cancers and lymphoma. Thus, early diagnosis and avoidance of gluten remain the best treatment for individuals with gluten sensitivity.

What are the causes of gluten intolerance

While the exact causes of gluten intolerance are not fully understood, several factors may contribute to its development as mentioned. These include:

1. Immunological response

“Gluten contains proteins that some individuals’ immune systems perceive as foreign invaders. This triggers an immune response, leading to inflammation and various symptoms associated with gluten intolerance,” shares Dr Bajaj.

2. Genetics

There may be a genetic predisposition to gluten intolerance. Certain genes such as HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 are commonly found in individuals with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten. Genetic factors may also play a role in gluten sensitivity, although the specific ones involved are not yet well-defined.

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Also read: Do you have type-2 diabetes? Then stay away from gluten-free diets

3. Leaky gut syndrome

“As per some theories, gluten intolerance has some association with associated with increased intestinal permeability, often referred to as a leaky gut syndrome. In this condition, the lining of the small intestine becomes more permeable, allowing larger particles, including gluten protein, to pass through and trigger an immune response,” says Dr Bajaj.

gluten intolerance
Go gluten free if you suffer from gluten intolerance! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

4. Fermentation of gluten

Another theory suggests that the fermentation of gluten in the gut by bacteria and yeasts may contribute to symptoms of gluten intolerance. The fermentation process produces substances that cause discomfort and digestive symptoms.

“It is important to note that gluten intolerance is distinct from celiac disease which is an autoimmune disorder that gets triggered by eating gluten. In celiac disease, gluten consumption leads to intestinal damage and long-term health complications. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity, on the other hand, does not cause the same level of intestinal damage but can still cause significant discomfort and symptoms,” adds Dr Bajaj.

How to manage gluten intolerance

The interconnection between the immune system, genes, gut microbiome and environmental triggers is complex and hard to understand. If you suspect that you have gluten intolerance, it is suggested to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietician who can help evaluate your symptoms, conduct appropriate testing and guide you through an elimination diet or other dietary modifications to manage your conditions effectively. Through a proper diet regime, the symptoms can be curbed to a large extent by getting rid of the triggers.

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