Diagnosis and Treatment for Wheat Sensitivity

What causes wheat sensitivity?

The significant increase in reported wheat sensitivities and intolerances is due to the fact that people are more mindful today. Indviduals who listen to their bodies and notice recurring issues will perceive of more symptoms and seek out medical support and treatment. 

And yet, there is another plausible theory to explain more frequent complaints: that humans cannot easily manage the diet of today's age. The quantity of wheat products consumed in the average modern diet is very high, and today's crop varietals are often genetically modified and highly processed, which can be  difficult on the digestive and immune systems.

Elements of cultivated wheat may cause sensitivities

Amylase trypsin inhibitors (ATI) are insect repellents that are present in much of the wheat that is cultivated today. They are the second most common protein class in grains.

Scientific studies suggest that the increasing share of ATI in food is associated with an increase in cases of wheat sensitivity. Gastroenterologists assume that the ATI from wheat provokes a reaction in the immune systems of those with wheat sensitivity. The mechanisms in the immune system may lead to the spread of inflammation, which then causes symptoms of discomfort. 

FODMAPs potentially responsible for the symptoms of wheat sensitivity

On the other hand, studies also show that it’s possible for FODMAP foods to trigger symptoms. The abbreviation FODMAP refers to the carbohydrates that cannot be absorbed by certain individuals, namely, "fermentable oligo-, di- and monosaccharides and polyols." These carbohydrates occur naturally in food. The sugars fructose and lactose, for example, belong to the FODMAP group, as do longer-chain indigestible carbohydrates found in beans or onions. Some studies suggest that a certain percentage of the population reacts to these specific carbohydrates with the symptoms described above. In these cases, the term "wheat sensitivity" would be misleading, since neither the wheat nor gluten are triggering the problems.

Diagnosing wheat sensitivity

To date, the diagnosis of wheat sensitivity has been a diagnosis of exclusion. It is neither an allergic reaction (as in the case of wheat allergy) nor an autoimmune disease (as in celiac disease).

Wheat sensitivity is diagnosed in patients with symptoms similar to celiac sufferers and wheat allergy sufferers, but for whom a wheat allergy, celiac disease, or IBS can be ruled out.

Treatment for wheat sensitivities

Experts recommend that individuals diagnosed with a wheat sensitivity follow a gluten-free diet. The probable cause of the inflammatory reaction of the body is a certain component of ATI, which occur only in gluten-containing grains. Therefore, a gluten-free diet, like that of patient with celiac disease, should also prevent the symptoms of wheat sensitivity.

Studies have shown that those affected with wheat sensitivities feel far better with a gluten-free diet. Gluten is contained in native grain varieties such as wheat, rye and barley.

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Further reading:

What is wheat sensitivity?