The protein gluten is mainly found in wheat, but it’s also a constituent of rye, oatmeal and barley. Gluten-related disorders (encompassing a range of conditions from marked coeliac disease to a more simple gluten allergy) are increasingly recognised in developed countries, and a specific type – ‘non-coeliac gluten sensitivity’ – is the subject of a new full-text review in the journal “Nutrients”.

Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity is associated with a variety of symptoms, including gut discomfort (abdominal pain, bloating), and more systemic manifestations such as brain fog, fatigue, headache, joint and muscle pain – in fact, some of the symptoms of ME/CFS described in the famous Canadian Clinical Criteria review. The key difference, however, is that symptoms related to gluten usually occur soon after gluten ingestion, and “disappear with gluten withdrawal within hours or few days”.

So, might a gluten-related disorder (however defined) be involved in ME/CFS? Although misdiagnosis is certainly high among ME/CFS patients (see our essay), studies have shown that very few patients are re-diagnosed with gastrointestinal disorders, including coeliac disease, at specialist ME/CFS clinics. Nevertheless, we know from the many emails and phone calls the charity receives that some patients’ symptoms can be helped by excluding gluten from their diet. It’s worth a thought, and worth talking over with a GP.

[Read the excellent review “Spectrum of gluten-related disorders”]

[Image Source: Pdeitiker in the Wikimedia Commons]

Reference: Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity: The New Frontier of Gluten Related Disorders. Catassi, et al. Nutrients, 2013; 5(10): 3839-3853.