Wheat sensitivity goes beyond the gut

October 18, 2016 Providence Health Team

We already know that gluten in wheat can cause digestive problems for some people – even those who don’t have celiac disease. But a new study finds that a class of proteins in wheat can cause health problems well outside the digestive system, worsening chronic diseases such as multiple sclerosis, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.

The findings, presented at United European Gastroenterology Week in Vienna, show that proteins known as amylase-trypsin inhibitors, or ATIs, can cause inflammation in the lymph nodes, kidneys, spleen and brain.

“As well as contributing to the development of bowel-related inflammatory conditions, we believe that ATIs can promote inflammation of other immune-related chronic conditions outside of the bowel,” said lead researcher Detlef Schuppan, a professor at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany.

The trouble with ATIs

ATIs trigger immune reactions in the gut that can spread to other tissues in the body, researchers say.

They also:

  • Can promote inflammation of immune-related chronic conditions outside the gut, potentially worsening symptoms of pre-existing inflammatory illnesses such as MS and rheumatoid arthritis
  • May contribute to the development of non-celiac gluten sensitivity, now an accepted medical diagnosis

To learn more

A press release from Vienna, “New study links protein in wheat to the inflammation of chronic health conditions,” is available at the United European Gastroenterology Week website.

An earlier study focusing on the intestinal effects of the wheat proteins, “Wheat amylase trypsin inhibitors drive intestinal inflammation via activation of toll-like receptor 4,” was published in 2012 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Much has been written about celiac disease, a gastrointestinal condition triggered by gluten intolerance. More recently, researchers have explored non-celiac gluten sensitivity. A 2013 study by a group of researchers, including Schuppan, “Non-celiac gluten sensitivity: The new frontier of gluten-related disorders,” is available from the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health.

Providence has many resources to help you assess your diet and your body’s sensitivity to wheat and gluten. To find a Providence provider near you, check our geographic directory.

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