I’m really excited about a couple of new studies on gluten sensitivity. I have been talking about this condition for so long, knowing that it contributes to many different health conditions in the body. The science is only beginning to scratch the surface of what clinicians have been seeing for years in patients who suddenly feel better after removing gluten from the diet.

A new study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology (yes, you heard me—gluten sensitivity is hitting the “big time” folks) has validated the fact that gluten sensitivity is not just “all in their heads.” This double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial recruited people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) whose symptoms improved after following a gluten free diet. These patients, in whom celiac disease was ruled out, were then put into two groups: one group was re-challenged with foods containing gluten and the other group was given “placebo” foods that did not contain gluten.

The results? In the group receiving the gluten-containing foods there was a significant increase in bloating, abdominal pain, altered bowel pattern and fatigue. Surprise, surprise! This is something that I have seen in people for years, and that the natural health community has known for a long time. But to see it published in this prestigious journal gives me hope that we will be taken more seriously with regard to the knowledge we are spreading about the damage that gluten can cause in many people.

This study is only the beginning, and will surely trigger many new studies that seek to discover just what is occurring in gluten sensitivity and why. The study helps to not only put gluten sensitivity on the map, so to speak, but also to explain one of the triggers to the ever-elusive IBS. We have known that gut infections can trigger IBS, and now we know that gluten sensitivity may also be a trigger. Again, this is something that I have been saying for many years.

And that’s not all! Another study reported in the Wall Street Journal and published in BMC Medicine has determined that gluten sensitivity and celiac disease involve two different branches of the immune system. Gluten sensitivity involves the innate immune system, which is responsible for the initial inflammatory response that occurs when the body encounters a “foreign” invader—in this case, gluten. Celiac disease, on the other hand, was found to involve the adaptive immune system, which involves a more complex secondary immune response that identifies the foreign invaders so that they will be recognized each time they are subsequently encountered.

Very interesting is that the difference between these two conditions was related to intestinal permeability—leaky gut. Those people with celiac disease were more likely to have leaky gut, while those with gluten sensitivity had not developed leaky gut—YET! What I think they will find is that gluten sensitivity is the first, milder reaction that worsens, increases leaky gut, and becomes full blown celiac disease. It’s a progression, and if you don’t take control of it early, it can lead to many different health conditions.

If you think you are gluten sensitive, try a gluten-free diet (no cheating—I’m not kidding!) for at least six weeks (even up to 6 months or more depending on your condition) to see if you begin to feel better. Today, there are many gluten-free options. Be sure to include plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, good fats, and whole, gluten-free grains. You’ll be on your way to wellness.