If you have minor gluten intolerance, is small exposure to a contaminated product enough to make you feel bad? Essentially, is it all or nothing if you’re gluten intolerant?
While celiac disease requires strict adherence to a 100 percent gluten-free diet, we're not quite sure yet about non-celiac gluten sensitivity. What we do know is that gluten sensitivity is a unique and distinct immune response from celiac disease. We also know that people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity do not produce antibodies after eating gluten nor experience damage to their intestines, like we see in those with celiac.
However, gluten sensitivity is a real condition and the severity of symptoms varies greatly from person to person. Because we don't know yet what kind of damage, if any, happens to the body, it is to the discretion of the patient and his or her doctor to what level they choose to avoid gluten. Some experience terrible symptoms from a small amount of gluten and choose to avoid it completely, while others may experience milder symptoms and choose to be more lenient with their gluten consumption.
As we learn more about gluten sensitivity, we'll know how it affects the body and whether complete avoidance of gluten is recommended or if small amounts can be tolerated. The scientific community is working hard to better understand non-celiac gluten sensitivity and we'll start to see the results of their efforts in coming years.
Rachel Begun, MS, RD, registered dietitian