Celiac.com 01/13/2016 - Researchers are zeroing in on markers for gluten sensitivity in people who don't have celiac disease.

Photo: CC--Derek GaveySo far, there's been scant proof of what causes gluten sensitivity in people who don't have celiac disease. It's been difficult to even pin down the existence of a condition that can be tested and diagnosed.

The results of a recent study may change that. The study, from Giovanni Barbara and his team at the University of Bologna, Italy, suggests that inflammation in gluten-sensitive individuals may result from high levels of a molecule called zonulin.

Zonulin has been linked to inflammation, and people with celiac disease have been shown to have high levels of zonulin when consuming wheat protein. Symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, alternating diarrhea or constipation. And there can be other symptoms, including "brain fog," headache, fatigue and joint and muscle pain.

Barbara's study found that zonulin levels in gluten-sensitive individuals almost matched those of celiacs.

The researchers stress the preliminary nature of the results, but note that this information could lead to testing methods for detecting gluten sensitivity in people who don't have celiac disease.

According to gastroenterologist Alessio Fasano of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, about 6 percent of the global population may be sensitive to gluten, so any breakthrough in identifying and testing for non-celiac gluten sensitivity could impact tens of millions of people worldwide.

Stay tuned for more on zonulin and it's role in non-celiac gluten sensitivity. 

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