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Pesticides, Wheat And Gluten Sensitivity: What Is The Connection?

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 Pesticides: Another Possible Cause of Gluten Sensitivity

Updated 2016

wheat blue sky

Investigators are diligently looking for a cause of Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS), and may be close to an explanation that doesn’t involve gluten at all. Non celiac gluten sensitivity occurs when a person experiences symptoms related to eating gluten, and celiac disease has been ruled out by validated testing.

We don’t know the underlying mechanism of NCGS, but this is being intensely investigated and the symptoms may be due to more than one culprit.  I discussed FODMAP  intolerance in a previous article. It may  be the reason for many cases of gluten sensitivity, but not all.

There is a family of proteins contained in wheat itself called “ amylase-trypsin inhibitors” or ATI’s for short. These are “natural” pesticides found in wheat. Yes, natural. Many plants have natural pesticides. They are not pesticides added by humans for farming purposes, but an inherent part of the plant, put there by nature. They are nature’s way of allowing plants to propagate by making them resistant to certain insects and pests.

These particular proteins, ATI’s, are the wheat plants’ defense mechanisms against particular invaders. It appears, however, that ATI’s may also be a problem for some humans and may be a factor in some cases of non-celiac gluten sensitivity. A  paper by Y. Junker et al. found these ATI’s actually may be recognized as foreign by our immune systems, thereby triggering an immune response in the intestine. This reaction occurred in both celiac and non-celiac patients and the authors hypothesized that it may play a role in other intestinal inflammatory conditions as well.

cakeCurrently, ATI’s are thought to be involved in “baker’s asthma,” one of the leading causes of occupational asthma, but their role in non-celiac gluten sensitivity has yet to be fully defined. I think we may be hearing more about them in the near future.

Their possible part in the conundrum of non-celiac gluten sensitivity suggests that NCGS may be caused by many different factors. In some people, it may be caused by the carbohydrate component of wheat, such as in FODMAP Intolerance. In others, it may be caused by ATI’s or wheat agglutinins. The information behind non-celiac gluten sensitivity is rapidly emerging.

I am pleased that NCGS is finally recognized by the traditional medical community as a valid condition. Now it is up to science to define exactly what it is and how to best treat it.

Due to the fact that gluten may not be the reason for symptoms in NCGS at all, it has been proposed by some that the name of this disorder be changed to “Non-Celiac Wheat Sensitivity” going forward. The voice and experience of the gluten-free community is an important adjunct to this quest.

*Addendum Regarding Diagnosis and Testing for NCGS

Currently there is no laboratory test for NCGS.  A single test cannot be developed for what appear to be different disorders arising from wheat.test tubes  Despite the fact that some online labs offer tests that diagnose “gluten sensitivity”, there are no validated tests for it. It is impossible to devise a test for an entity where the cause is not clearly defined and the reasons may be many.




Past columns by Dr. Burkhart:

April/May 2016: Reasons People Follow a Gluten Free Diet: 7 Types of Gluten Free Dieters 

March 2016: Ten Positive Aspects of a Celiac Disease Diagnosis

February 2016: Gluten Causes Keratosis Pilaris (a.k.a. “Chicken Skin”): Fact or Myth?

January 2016: Fingernail Changes in IBS,Gluten Disorders and Celiac Disease “A window to health”

December 2015: 20 Gluten-Free Gift Ideas: From Budget to Luxury, Sentimental to Practical & More

November 2015: Cold Sores, Canker Sores and Gluten

October 2015: Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity Research: Snippets from ICDS 2015 (Part 2)

September 2015: Celiac and Gluten Sensitivity Research: Ten Snippets from ICDS 2015

July/August 2015: A New Home Test To Monitor Gluten Exposure

June 2015: Six Reasons to Test for Celiac Disease Before Starting a Gluten-Free Diet

May 2015: POTS, Celiac Disease and Gluten: An Undiscovered Connection?

February/March/April 2015: Arsenic in the Gluten-Free Diet: Facts and Tips

December 2014/ January 2015: The Microbiome and Celiac Disease: A Bacterial Connection

November 2014: Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity: The doctor-patient disconnect

October 2014: Should You Trust Gluten-Free Labels?

September 2014: Triggers for celiac disease: One possible answer

July/August 2014: Ten Tips for a Healthier Gluten-Free Diet

June 2014: Back Pain and Gluten

May 2014: Self-Diagnosis of Gluten Sensitivity: Four Alarming Trends

April 2014: Update on Restaurants and Gluten-Free Dining

March 2014: Histamine Intolerance: Could it be causing your symptoms?

February 2014: Celiac Disease and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (Reprinted with permission from Sonoma Medicine)

January 2014: Four Vitamin Toxicities on a Gluten-Free Diet

December 2013: Move Over Gluten-Free, Low FODMAP is Next

November 2013: SIBO, Gluten and IBS: What Is The Connection?

October 2013: Pesticides, Wheat and Gluten Sensitivity: What is the Connection?

September 2013: Is gluten really the culprit in gluten sensitivity?

August 2013: Clarifying the Gluten-Free Labeling Rule

June/July 2013: No such thing as Mild Celiac Disease

May 2013: Magnesium Deficiency

April 2013: Six Reasons to test for celiac disease before starting a gluten-free diet

March 2013: Why am I having migraines?

February 2013: What is fructose malabsorption?

January 2013: Educating doctors about celiac disease

December 2012: Are supplements to digest gluten safe and useful?

November 2012: Top 5 reasons for persistent symptoms after Going Gluten Free

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“I have been a patient of Dr. Amy Burkhart for several years. I suffer from Crohn’s disease and was having difficulty in my daily life. After visiting many doctors, all of whom were unable to help me, Dr. Burkhart took the time and patience to create a plan which brought me back to health. I still follow her plan to this day and have been living a normal healthy life. Dr. Burkhart listened to my symptoms along with listening to me, she took her time in preparing a plan which led me to the road for recovery. I cannot thank Dr. Burkhart enough, and I would recommend her to anyone.”

8 months ago

Stone Brewing company Stone Brewing - Napa opened recently in Napa in an historic building adjacent to the river. A great venue to enjoy life! The gluten free menu options are coming (per the manager ) but please visit and inquire about GF options. The more people who show interest and discuss cross contamination the more likely they are to get it right! Wine is available. Maybe they will even consider a GF beer! . ... See MoreSee Less