86% Of Gluten Sensitive People Are Not Gluten Sensitive After All? My Opinion On This New Study

Ah, gluten sensitivity. It seems you either love to hate it or you love to hate the thing that causes it. Admittedly, I tend to fall into the later camp and diagnose non-celiac gluten sensitivity fairly frequently in the cases I see in my office here in Chapel Hill.

Everybody seems to have an opinion on gluten these days, and technology is probably largely to blame. One day a friend may post that going gluten-free changed their life, the next day an article comes out saying it’s just a fad diet and it’s all in your head. So in this fast-paced world where we get our news from sources like Facebook, Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post is it possible we could be being led astray?


A recent article in the Huffington Post boldly claims that 86% of people who think they are sensitive to gluten really aren’t. So have we been wrong for demonizing gluten all this time, or should we take another look at the quality of the study the author references? I think we can add this article to the long list of articles unsuccessfully trying to refute the existence of non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) with flawed research and an incomplete understanding of the topic at hand.

Here’s why I’m not taking this one too seriously:

  1. This study was done in Italy, not the United States. Wheat is a completely different animal in Europe, and it is not uncommon for people to visit Europe and report that they can happily eat gluten there with no problem. Those same people come back to the US and experience symptoms again. How could this be? To get to the bottom of why this is, we must first ask ourselves two questions:
    1. Why is NCGS on the rise? The simplest answer I can give you is that two things have changed: the wheat has changed and so have we. Most of the articles on the internet will likely point to the first cause- our wheat is genetically modified (GMO), doused in pesticides, stored and handled, stripped of any nutrients it contains, and overly processed. And while this is all true and likely a large factor to consider, it is not the entire story. We humans are quite different than the humans that walked this earth even 50 years ago. We are more heavily medicated and vaccinated than ever before, our diets are the worst in human history, we are exposed to more toxins and chemical stressors than ever before, exercise less, drink more, hardly ever go out in the sun, and are stressed, overtired, overworked, depressed, and underappreciated. Our ancestors might have been able to handle the toxic sludge we call gluten, but with our health the way it is this current generation doesn’t stand a chance.
    2. What is different between Europe and the USA? Many, many things. For one, Europeans are generally healthier and more active than their US counter-parts. This, however, does nothing to explain how somebody could travel to Europe and eat bread again, as their body likely would not change on the short trip across the pond. I think the big thing to consider here is that the wheat is different in Europe. Many European countries have either banned GMOs or grow far fewer GMO crops (including Italy). This also means that their methods of pest control are going to be different, and their crops are less likely to be doused with glyphosate than ours. Furthermore, breads and pastas that are made in a traditional manner may be processed in a way that makes them more easily digestible than their American counterparts.


So what does all of this mean? It means that this piece of research means almost diddly squat to anybody living (and eating) in the United States. If you live in Europe, then maybe this can be more easily applied to you, but even that may not be entirely true…

More to come in part 2.

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About Nicole DiNezza, DC

Dr. DiNezza is a functional medicine practitioner in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Her passion is helping those with chronic inflammatory conditions such as autoimmune diseases, chronic digestive problems, and hormonal imbalances manage their conditions more holistically and naturally. Dr. DiNezza incorporates nutritional therapy, high quality supplements, essential oils, chiropractic care, lifestyle advice, and cold laser therapy in her office in Chapel Hill.