Background: A gluten-free diet is the only recommended treatment for coeliac disease.
Aim: To determine the prevalence and characteristics of reactions to gluten among persons with coeliac disease on a gluten-free diet.
Methods: Adults with biopsy proven, newly diagnosed coeliac disease were prospectively enrolled. A survey related to diet adherence and reactions to gluten was completed at study entry and 6 months. The Coeliac Symptom Index, Coeliac Diet Assessment Tool (CDAT) and Gluten-Free Eating Assessment Tool (GF-EAT) were used to measure coeliac disease symptoms and gluten-free diet adherence.
Results: Of the 105 participants, 91% reported gluten exposure <1 per month and median CDAT score was 9 (IQR 8-11), consistent with adequate adherence. A suspected symptomatic reaction to gluten was reported by 66%. Gluten consumption was unsuspected until a reaction occurred (63%) or resulted from problems ordering in a restaurant (29%). The amount of gluten consumed ranged from cross-contact (30%) to a major ingredient (10%). Median time to symptom onset was 1 h (range 10 min to 48 h), and median symptom duration was 24 h (range 1 h to 8 days). Common symptoms included abdominal pain (80%), diarrhoea (52%), fatigue (33%), headache (30%) and irritability (29%).
Conclusions: Reactions to suspected gluten exposure are common among patients with coeliac disease on a gluten-free diet. Eating at restaurants and other peoples' homes remain a risk for unintentional gluten exposure. When following individuals with coeliac disease, clinicians should include questions regarding reactions to gluten as part of their assessment of gluten-free diet adherence.
© 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.