Wheat As A Common Cause of Dyspepsia and Irritable Bowel

Research Links Wheat To Indigestion and Irritable Bowel

Could common complaints of bloating, upper abdominal discomfort and indigestion following a meal, and even the increasingly prevalent complaint lazily labeled 'irritable bowel syndrome' by practitioners of conventional medicine , be worsened -- even caused -- by consuming wheat?

It is already well-established that patients with gluten-sensitive enteropathy, an inflammatory condition of the small intestine caused by the consumption of gluten-containing grains like wheat, also frequently suffer from what is known as dysmotility-like functional dyspepsia symptoms* -- a technical term for upper abdominal discomfort or pain, with symptoms that include: "early feeling of having enough to eat, fullness after a meal, nausea, recurrent retching and/or vomiting, upper abdominal bloating, and upper abdominal discomfort aggravated by food." (Source)  These symptoms occur in the absence of a physical lesion such as an ulcer.

This is why new research performed out of the Hospital San Jorge in the Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology in Huesca, Spain,[i] focused on the question: how many patients diagnosed with dysmotility-like dyspepsia symptoms are experiencing adverse gastrointestinal symptoms as a result of eating wheat (gluten) in their diet?

The researchers looked retrospectively at 142 patients who presented with "dysmotility-like dyspepsia symptoms and normal upper gastrointestinal endoscopy." First, biopsies were taken of their duodenums (the first section of the intestine).  Second, in patients with clinically verified enteropathy they performed typical blood tests for celiac disease (e.g. anti-tissue transglutiminase IgA antibodies), as well as genetic testing for the HLA-DQ2/DQ8 genes almost always found implicated in those diagnosed with celiac disease. In addition, they put the patients on a gluten-free diet if one of these markers were found.

The results were as follows

  1. Fifty-one patients (35.9%) had enteropathy
  2. A positive blood test for celiac was low (6.7%) in mild enteropathy cases
  3. A positive blood test for celiac was much higher (50%) in more extreme enteropathy cases
  4. Most patients with enteropathy (84.1%) had positive HLA DQ2 or -DQ8 (the genetic locus of celiac disease susceptibility) genotyping

In essence, the study revealed that intestinal damage (enteropathy) is relatively high in those diagnosed with dysmotility-like dyspepsia; basically one in three (35.9%) suffered from clinically confirmed damage to the intestine. Moreover, most patients in this study with clinically-confirmed enteropathy (84.1%) had the genetic locus for celiac disease susceptibility (HLA DQ2 or -DQ8), indicating the observed intestinal damage (enteropathy) may have a genetic component and may often be caused by undiagnosed celiac disease.

Even more remarkable was the observation that "Out of the 37 patients who started a gluten-free diet, 34 (91.9%) improved their symptoms, and 28 of 32 (87.5%) had a histopathological or serological response."


This latest study speaks to the possibility that many common gastrointestinal symptoms, including common complaints of indigestion, may be directly linked to the consumption of wheat. Whereas often the knee jerk response to this type of symptomology is the prescription of an acid-blocker, whose clinical efficacy has been shown to be poor to non-existent for this type of condition, the real solution may actually be removing wheat (the cause) from the diet.

Another similar case in point is irritable bowel syndrome.

A 2007 study published in the Clinical Journal of Gastroentology and Hepatology found that over one in three patients with diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) shared the same blood and genetic markers classically associated with celiac disease.[ii] Moreover, after 6 months of gluten-free diet, "stool frequency and gastrointestinal symptom score returned to normal values in 60% of diarrhea predominant IBS patients who were positive and in 12% who were negative for HLA-DQ2 and celiac disease-associated serum IgG."

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