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Gluten Sensitivity

Don't let the craze drive you crazy

Lindsey Mathews

Lindsey Mathews is the owner of Moxie Full Body Fitness, a quarterly fitness boot camp that focuses on weight loss and overall fitness. With a BA in Human Development from Brigham Young University, Lindsey’s boot camps are just as much about building mental and emotional self-confidence as they are about getting in shape.

In 2011, researchers concluded non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) “may exist.”[1] This study sparked a gluten-free craze that took the nation by storm.

Gluten-free products and gluten-free diets cropped up in stores and in weight loss forums, all emphasizing the benefits of avoiding gluten.

This gluten-free fad has had a huge economical and nutritional impact, with estimated sales totaling about $10.5 billion in the year 2013.[2]

But, here’s a newsflash: new evidence shows gluten isn’t a bad guy after all.

Undoing the Gluten-Free Craze

The same research team behind the 2011 non-celiac gluten sensitivity study conducted another study on gluten-sensitivity, and this time the results were surprising.

Gluten Molecule

glu·ten noun
a substance present in cereal grains, especially wheat, that is responsible for the elastic texture of dough. A mixture of two proteins, it causes illness in people with celiac disease.

A more concise testing method was applied to eliminate any outside variables. All individuals were assigned to a low FODMAP (short-chain carbohydrate) diet for a 2-week period and then assigned to 3 diets containing varying amounts of gluten: 16 g gluten per day, 2 g gluten with 14 g whey protein isolate, or a placebo of 16 g whey protein isolate.

Interestingly, no gluten-specific effects were observed in the individuals on a low FODMAP diet. Each diet, including the placebo diet, caused test subjects to report gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating, nausea, and pain.[3]

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What Does This Mean?

A red flag was raised when test subjects experienced side effects on the placebo diet. Researchers believe the nocebo effect may have influenced test subjects.[3]

The nocebo effect is a condition in which test subjects may suffer anticipated side effects from a treatment, even if that treatment is a placebo.[4] Because test subjects anticipated side effects, they experienced them.[2]

This nocebo effect may be the reason there are roughly 18 million individuals who identify themselves as gluten-sensitive but only 1.8 million have celiac disease.[2]

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is often a self-reported diagnosis.[5] Other psychological aspects, like the power of social influence by celebrities and fitness-junkies, may have added fuel to the anti-gluten fire, so to speak.

So Who’s the Real Bad Guy?

Evidence is far from conclusive; however, there are hints another villain causes gastrointestinal issues like irritable bowel syndrome in individuals who once identified as gluten-intolerant: FODMAPs.

FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates that some individuals have a difficult time digesting. If these FODMAPs are not digested and absorbed properly, they may ferment in the stomach, leading to gas and bloating.[6]

If you experience gastrointestinal problems, here are some foods you should avoid that contain large amounts of FODMAPs:[7]


And, here’s the bottom line: if you don’t suffer from celiac disease, you don’t need to turn and run from gluten.

Gluten-free alternatives tend to be more expensive, so you can save money by first cutting high FODMAP foods from your diet to see if your symptoms improve. If they don’t ask your doctor to test you for Celiac disease before spending your hard-earned cash on unnecessary gluten-free products.

eSupplements Article Recap

  • A 2011 study sparked the gluten-free craze.
  • New study shows no negative effects of gluten.
  • Try avoiding foods high in FODMAPs.


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    Comments (4)

    Alissa Priest

    June 29, 2014


    I find it odd that people are so bothered by this ‘fad’. No one but the sufferer can dictate if they are sensitive to gluten. What’s really important is to fuel your body with the nutrients it needs and hone in to understand how to feel your best.

      Lindsey Mathews

      Lindsey Mathews

      July 11, 2014

      Re: Gluten

      Absolutely agree with you Alissa. Levels of sensitivity can vary drastically, and what might seem like minimal gut discomfort to one person could be debilitating to another, it’s all relative to the individual which is thankfully being taken into consideration more and more with health care professionals.


    July 8, 2014


    What about all the 100% all wheat that has been chemically altered? It seems like he gluten today has been so chemically altered that people are so sensitive to it.

      Lindsey Mathews

      Lindsey Mathews

      July 11, 2014

      Re: Gluten?

      Agreed Steve. We know for certain that massive gluten consumption wasn’t part of any cultures regular diet until fairly recently. And similar to the lactose found in milk, gluten can range from zero intestinal impact to causing the consumer to be violently ill, so with the technological advances (that have made procuring gluten a simple process) that have increased the amount we consume in common foods, so too has there been an increase in gluten sensitivity.

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