Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is a syndrome characterized by intestinal and extraintestinal symptoms related to the ingestion of gluten-containing food in subjects who are not affected by either celiac disease (CD) or wheat allergy (WA). The prevalence of NCGS is not clearly defined yet. Indirect evidence suggests that NCGS is slightly more common than CD, the latter affecting around 1% of the general population. NCGS has been mostly described in adults, particularly in females in the age group of 30-50 years; however, pediatric case series have also been reported. Since NCGS may be transient, gluten tolerance needs to be reassessed over time in patients with NCGS. NCGS is characterized by symptoms that usually occur soon after gluten ingestion, disappear with gluten withdrawal, and relapse following gluten challenge within hours/days. The 'classical' presentation of NCGS is a combination of irritable bowel syndrome-like symptoms, including abdominal pain, bloating, bowel habit abnormalities (either diarrhea or constipation), and systemic manifestations such as 'foggy mind', headache, fatigue, joint and muscle pain, leg or arm numbness, dermatitis (eczema or skin rash), depression, and anemia. In recent years, several studies explored the relationship between the ingestion of gluten-containing food and the appearance of neurological and psychiatric disorders/symptoms like ataxia, peripheral neuropathy, schizophrenia, autism, depression, anxiety, and hallucinations (so-called gluten psychosis). The diagnosis of NCGS should be considered in patients with persistent intestinal and/or extraintestinal complaints showing a normal result of the CD and WA serological markers on a gluten-containing diet, usually reporting worsening of symptoms after eating gluten-rich food. NCGS should not be an exclusion diagnosis only. Unfortunately, no biomarker is sensitive and specific enough for diagnostic purposes; therefore, the diagnosis of NCGS is currently based on establishing a clear-cut cause-effect relationship between the ingestion of gluten and the appearance of symptoms by a standardized double-blind, placebo-controlled gluten challenge.
© 2015 S. Karger AG, Basel.