Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity

Until just recently, many people that experienced a range of symptoms in response to the eating wheat or foods that contain gluten were believed to be symptoms typical of coeliac disease. However, when people were tested for coeliac disease they lacked the characteristic markers of coeliac disease.

Over recent years, evidence has emerged that people can suffer from gluten intolerance independent to the characteristic clinical manifestation of coeliac disease. In addition, new research is helping shed some light on what is occurring from a serological (blood) and histological (structural) viewpoint with people that have a sensitivity to gluten.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a family of proteins and is found predominantly in grains. Grains include:

– Wheat, rye, spelt and barley.

Gluten is comprised of 2 main proteins, glutenin and gliadin. Gliadin is the dominant protein that causes issues for people with coeliac disease, which is an autoimmune condition.

Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity

Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) is a relatively newly recognised disorder. In fact, it was only formally given its name in 2012, however, reports of people suffering from NCGS disorder date back for over 30 years.

What is NCGS?

People suffering from NCGS differ from the autoimmune disorder coeliac disease in the fact they do not develop antibodies against gluten. NCGS diagnosis has been difficult since there are many food and environmental triggers that can cause gastrointestinal symptom and until recently there has not been any form of diagnostic markers such as a blood test for NCGS.

What happens if I have NCGS and I eat gluten?

  • The ingestion of wheat (gluten) can trigger a systemic immune reaction in susceptible people.
  • This is due to increased permeability of the mucosal gut lining (it becomes leaky) allowing substances that should only be found in the gastrointestinal tract to leak out into the circulatory systems.
  • The body’s immune system becomes overactive as it recognises these leaked substances from the gut as “the enemy” and starts to try and stop them from doing harm to the body. This results in various systemic issues and symptoms associated with NCGS.

What are the signs & symptoms of NCGS?

There are many signs and symptoms of NCGS. Every person is different and may experience one or several symptoms related to NCGS at different degrees of severity.  I have highlighted the most common signs and symptoms below: 

1. Intestinal

Abdominal pain, diarrhoea, nausea, weight loss, bloating, excessive flatulence.

2. Skin

Erythema (redness of skin & mucosa’s), eczema.

3. General

Headaches, bone and joint pain, involuntary muscle contractions, numbness of hands and feet, chronic tiredness.

4. Nutritional deficiencies


5. Serological

Increased levels of soluble CD14, which is a protein, released by certain white blood cells on activation, increased levels of lipopolysaccharide-(LPS) binding protein which enhances the responsiveness of certain immune cells.

6. Behavioural

Attention disturbances, depression, hyperactivity, ataxia (slurred speech, stumbling, falling, lack of coordination).

7. Dental

Chronic ulcers of the mouth.

8. Structural

Mild inflammation of the intestinal lining, elevated immune cells in the gut lining.

However, symptoms can be due to many other health issues and should be discussed with your doctor in the first instance. This will also allow for any testing to be completed.

Final Word

A simple way to determine if you have gluten sensitivity is to do a gluten free diet elimination test. However, gluten can be hidden in many different food items especially processed packaged foods therefore reading food labels becomes necessary.

A qualified health care professional can help guide you through a gluten free elimination diet protocol, help with reading food labels, understand the hidden sources of gluten. More importantly a qualified healthcare professional can track your progress, health and wellbeing if it is determine that you have NCGS and required a gluten free diet.

Changes to your diet or nutrition to manage a health condition should only be undertaken with advice from a suitably qualified nutritional health professional.

This factsheet is for general information only.

Please contact me to discuss your individual needs.