Gluten may be causing people to become depressed or get tired more often than it causes real stomach problems, research found.
Scientists have discovered that gluten produces "mental health responses" in some people after they eat foods such as bread or pasta.
Although some people are genuinely intolerant of grain protein due to a condition called celiac disease, only one percent of people actually have this.
But many more, about 12 percent of people, say they have gluten sensitivity, which causes swelling and cramping.
To determine if this sensitivity to non-celiac gluten is real or is in the mind, the researchers conducted blind food tests on people and measured their symptoms.
In the process they found that some people experience genuine mental health problems as a result of eating foods high in gluten.
Researchers say that gluten sensitivity may be in the minds of people who do not have celiac disease: in one study, people who claimed to be sensitive to gluten reported similar levels of bloating and cramping even when they were not eating gluten, but did not. made. to know
The small study, conducted by researchers at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, proved what happened when 14 people ate gluten.
Over the course of several weeks, participants received yogurts and muffins that contained gluten or not, but were not told what they ate.
The participants could not distinguish the two types of food, so when they reported the symptoms, the scientists could determine if they were caused by food or by their minds.
People said they felt similar levels of bloating or cramping after eating both types of food, suggesting that the intestinal symptoms of so-called gluten sensitivity are caused by something else.
Experts suggest that bloating or cramping could be caused by carbohydrates called fructans or triggered by the fear of eating gluten, New Scientist reported.
WHAT IS CELIAC'S DISEASE?
Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disorder in which gluten causes damage to the small intestine.
Gluten causes inflammation in the small intestine that affects the body's ability to absorb nutrients from food.
It is estimated that the condition affects one in 100 people worldwide.
One percent, or three million Americans, live with celiac disease.
There are more than 200 symptoms of celiac disease, but the most common are:
- Abdominal swelling and pain
- Chronic diarrhea
- Throwing up
- Pale, smelly or greasy stools
The only treatment for the disease and is a strict diet without gluten.
Only foods and beverages with a gluten content of less than 20 parts per million are allowed.
Source: Celiac Disease Foundation
But they also discovered that when people ate gluten they were more likely to feel tired or experience less positive emotions, suggesting that it has real effects on the brain.
Lead researcher Jessica Biesiekierski said: "Certainly, we are not saying that everyone will get depression after eating gluten."
He added that this phenomenon will only affect a small number of people.
But it could explain in some way why some feel better after going gluten-free.
In addition, people tend to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and live healthier lifestyles after choosing to stop eating gluten, said Dr. Biesiekierski.
Their findings are in addition to previous research that found that gluten causes more symptoms of depression than an inactive substance in people who claimed to be sensitive to the protein.
Another study, conducted in Italy in 2015, found an increase in depression and "mental confusion" among people sensitive to gluten when they ate it.
Michael Potter, a researcher at the University of Newcastle in Australia, added: "These studies suggest that there are definitely people who have reproducible mental health responses to gluten when they are subjected to blinded challenges."
The findings of Dr. Biesiekierski were presented at an annual conference of the Gastroenterological Society of Australia last week.