Objectives: Non-celiac wheat sensitivity (NCWS) is a newly described clinical entity characterized by symptoms, which can involve the gastrointestinal tract, the nervous system, the skin, and other organs. There is little data on the pathogenesis of NCWS and it is probable that different pathogenic mechanisms are involved in the different clinical manifestations of the disease. The only common denominator of NCWS "syndrome" is wheat consumption: the symptoms disappear on exclusion of wheat from the diet, and reappear on wheat consumption. The objective of this study was to review our prior data regarding NCWS and to review relevant medical literature regarding NCWS, with particular attention to the hypothesis that NCWS patients could suffer from non-immunoglobulin E (IgE)-mediated wheat allergy.
Methods: We reviewed our data on 276 patients diagnosed with NCWS by means of double-blind placebo-controlled (DBPC) wheat challenge. The data indicating a possible wheat allergy diagnosis were examined and other data in the literature were reviewed; we review the role of serum immunoglobulin G antibodies and the basophil activation assay in food allergy, and the histology findings in the food allergy diagnosis.
Results: The comparison between patients suffering from NCWS and presenting with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and controls with IBS not due to NCWS showed that NCWS was characterized by: a personal history of food allergy in the pediatric age (0.01), coexistent atopic diseases (0.0001), positive serum anti-gliadin (0.0001) and anti-betalactoglobulin (0.001) antibodies, positive cytofluorimetric assay revealing in vitro basophil activation by food antigens (0.0001), and a presence of eosinophils in the intestinal mucosa biopsies (0.0001).
Conclusions: Patients with NCWS and multiple food sensitivity show several clinical, laboratory, and histological characteristics that suggest they might be suffering from non-IgE-mediated food allergy. However, other pathogenic mechanisms need to be considered.