New celiac patients may ingest gluten and not realize it until they develop symptoms linked to autoimmune disease, a recent study shows.
They study, prompted by the lack of scientific data about inadvertent gluten exposure, involved researchers from Winnipeg, Manitoba and the Harvard Medical School Celiac Research Program. They followed 105 newly diagnosed celiac patients over six months.
Their findings, published in the journal Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, show that 66 per cent of the patients suspected they’d had a recent reaction to gluten with symptoms that ranged from headaches to fatigue and diarrhea.
The biggest risk factor was one the patients had the least control over: eating food that had been prepared by others, either in a restaurant or in someone else’s home.
“In such instances, there may be less clear information and less control over ingredients and preparation, which means it is quite possible that this may not improve with time and experience, ” says Dr. Jocelyn Silvester, one of the study authors, who says the research highlights the need for better tools to know whether a food contains gluten, or if a patient has consumed gluten.
For example, her research group is working with a Spanish company that has developed a method to detect gluten in urine and stool samples.
Researchers will continue to follow these patients for two years to see if time and experience leads to fewer incidents of accidental gluten exposure.