Non-Celiac Wheat Sensitivity: A New Clinical Entity

A common response to the suggestion that wheat may be causing digestive or other problems is “I don’t need to worry about wheat because my doctor checked me and I don’t have celiac disease.”

Despite thousands of anecdotal reports of improved digestive health with wheat avoidance, most people, including most physicians, cannot recognize wheat sensitivity outside of an official diagnosis of celiac disease.

To the mainstream medical establishment, negative celiac tests mean you do not have wheat sensitivity.

The lag between research and clinical practice means that a great many physicians will have this “no celiac, no sensitivity” mindset for quite some time, despite testimony by some physicians and patients to the contrary.

Fortunately, the research is continuing to build that today’s wheat is harmful in ways that traditional testing does not reveal. Take a look at the title of a study published in the July 24, 2012 issue of American Journal of Gastroenterology:

Non-Celiac Wheat Sensitivity Diagnosed by Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Challenge: Exploring a New Clinical Entity

Using IBS-like symptoms (IBS = irritable bowel syndrome), the authors used a double-blind, placebo-controlled challenge to identify patients as having  a non-celiac wheat disorder. Comparing those patients to their control group (a mixture of celiac disease and non-celiac IBS patients), they observed that:

“As a whole group, the non-celiac wheat sensitivity group showed a higher frequency of anemia, weight loss, self-reported wheat intolerance, coexistent atopy, and food allergy in infancy than the IBS controls.”

The authors go on to say that the non-celiac wheat sensitivity can be broken down into two groups, one that matches celiac disease symptoms and one that exhibits as food sensitivity:

“Patients with non-celiac wheat sensitivity alone were characterized by clinical features very similar to those found in CD patients. Patients with multiple food sensitivity were characterized by clinical features similar to those found in allergic patients.”

Their conclusion is very straightforward:

“Our data confirm the existence of non-celiac wheat sensitivity as a distinct clinical condition.”

As William Davis documents thoroughly in Wheat Belly, celiac disease testing does a very poor job of identifying those of us who are sensitive to wheat. Perhaps one day, clinicians, and mainstream public opinion will catch up with the research.


Carroccio et al. “Non-Celiac Wheat Sensitivity Diagnosed by Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Challenge: Exploring a New Clinical Entity.” Am J Gastroenterol. 2012 Jul 24. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2012.236.

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