Ask why someone’s banned wheat from their diet, and nine times out of 10 they’ll proudly proclaim they’re “gluten intolerant.”
But doctors have stayed skeptical, maintaining that the only people who really need to avoid gluten—the protein “glue” that holds wheat grains together—are those actually diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes gluten to attack the small intestine. In fact, reports show that if a person doesn’t have celiac (and less than 1% of Americans do) yet follows a gluten-free diet, it could raise their risk of obesity and insulin resistance by steering them toward higher-fat, higher-sugar “gluten-free” packaged foods.
But a new study out of Columbia U. Medical Center may be what the anti-gluten warriors have been waiting for: It found that a significant number of people complaining of celiac-like symptoms may really have a weakened intestinal barrier, which can lead to an immune response that can create the problems.
So if you do suffer from the symptoms linked to gluten intolerance—upset stomach, gut pain, diarrhea, bloating—avoid gluten and see your doctor. It may not be all in your head.