Examining gluten-related disorders

Many are unaware there are actually three different gluten-related disorders, as they are commonly used interchangeably. These disorders include celiac disease, wheat allergy, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

To understand the differences among these disorders, it’s important to first understand that gluten is a general name for a protein composite found in wheat, barley, and rye. The respective prolamin glycoproteins (a group of plant storage proteins found in grains) of each of these grains are gliadin (wheat), hordein (barley), and secalin (rye). Celiac patients and people with other gluten intolerances can be sensitive to any one or all three of these prolamins.

As an example, gliadin and hordein are the prolamins found in beer, which cause problems for those who wish to drink beer, but also have celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or a wheat allergy.  Gluten-free beer can be found that does not contain gluten, or has the specific amount of gliadin or hordein listed.

Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disorder that affects the digestive process in the small intestine and can cause harm to body tissue. When someone with celiac disease eats gluten, the body causes an immune attack on the intestinal lining and prevents nutrients from being absorbed into the body. While doctors and scientists are currently conducting research and exploring several different theories as to what causes celiac disease, the prevalence of it has increased four-fold since 1950.

Wheat allergy, on the other hand, like most allergies, includes a spectrum of immune responses involving histamine that occurs within minutes to hours after wheat exposure but does not cause harm to body tissue. Typically, any one or a combination of skin, gastrointestinal, and respiratory systems undergoes the effects of food allergy. Some people experience minor discomfort when it comes to having an allergic reaction, while others can be severely allergic and experience anaphylaxis.

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is the final gluten-related disorder and can cause the body to mount a stress response (often gastrointestinal symptoms including abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting) — which is similar to a person with celiac disease. However, this response is different from the immunological response of celiac disease, as no intestinal damage occurs. The research on non-celiac gluten sensitivity is only just beginning but doctors currently estimate that up to 6% of the U.S., or 18 million Americans are affected.

Diagnostic test kits are available from Neogen and are geared towards the detection of these three main prolamins through the use of different antibodies including R5, which according to CODEX Alimentarius, is the method for determination of gluten is an enzyme-linked immunoassay (ELISA). Similarly, in an article published by Health Canada, scientists conducted an assessment which determined that methods utilizing the R5 antibody allow for the detection and quantification of gluten in processed foods.

For more information, click here. Neogen also has an online technical library with more information, which can be accessed here.


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