In recent years, the number of people with gluten sensitivity has been surging. One cannot help but notice that entire sections of supermarkets are now filled with gluten-free products. Zietchick Research Institute explains that gluten is not a single protein. Instead, “gluten” refers to a group of proteins—called prolamins and glutelins—which comprise a large amount of the total protein in wheat and smaller amount of the proteins in barley, rye, spelt, kamut, farro, durum and triticale. It is currently reported that about 5% of the U.S. population—that is about 18 million Americans—experience at least some symptoms related to the ingestion of gluten.
Zietchick Research Institute notes that gluten-sensitivity is an umbrella term for a variety of autoimmume diseases related to gluten consumption. Some of the disorders associated with gluten intolerance include celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, wheat allergy, and gluten ataxia. Symptoms of gluten sensitivity are usually related to the gastrointestinal tract. Common symptoms are stomach pain, bloating, heartburn, diarrhea and constipation. However, non-digestive symptoms are also common. For example, fatigue, peripheral neuropathy, migraines, and mouth ulcers can be found in people sensitive to gluten. In fact, a number of individuals with celiac disease will have neurologic symptoms without any digestive type symptoms.
Zietchick Research Institute would like to increase awareness that gluten sensitivity may also be linked to dry eye syndromes. A recent study conducted in Italy, and published in the European Annals of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, showed a high incidence of gluten sensitivity in patients with connective tissue diseases, including Sjogren’s Syndrome. Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder characterized by malfunction of the moisture-secreting glands of the eyes and mouth. The vast majority of people with Sjogren’s syndrome have dry eye. In a Swedish study, published in the Scandinavian journal of Gastroenterology, reseachers performed gluten challenges in 20 adult patients with Sjogren’s syndrome and 18 healthy adult patients (with no autoimmune disorders). An inflammatory response to gluten was found to be common in patients with Sjogren’s Dry Eye Syndrome. This held true even when the dry eye patients had not been previously diagnosed with Celiac or other gluten-related disorders.
Zietchick Research Institute notes that we cannot conclude that gluten sensitivity causes dry eye. Instead, these studies show an association between gluten intolerances and dry eye syndrome. However, patients with dry eye syndromes can discuss with their healthcare providers whether a trial of a gluten-free diet may help to determine if this type of diet may be of benefit.
1. Conti V, Leone MC, Casato M, Nicoli M, Granata G, Carlesimo M. High prevalence of gluten sensitivity in a cohort of patients with undifferentiated connective tissue disease. Eur Ann Allergy Clin Immunol. 2015;47(2):54-57.
2. Liden M, Kristjansson G, Valtysdottir S, Hallgren R. Gluten sensitivity in patients with primary Sjogren’s syndrome. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2007;42(8):962-967.
3. Web MD- https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/celiac-disease/news/20160916/whats-behind-gluten-free-trend#1
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