It is unclear whether patients with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) can tolerate gluten. We have evaluated the changes of both gastrointestinal symptoms and quality of life for NCGS patients after the re-introduction of dietary gluten. Twenty-two NCGS patients reporting functional gastroenterological symptoms and on gluten-free diet (GFD) for the previous three weeks were exposed to incremental gluten-containing diets. Three groups were compared at baseline (immediately after 3-weeks on GFD) and immediately after the return of symptomatology: (i) a group tolerating a low-gluten diet (3.5 g gluten/day, week 1, n = 8), (ii) a group tolerating a mid-gluten diet (8 g gluten/day, week 2, n = 6), and (iii) a group tolerating a high-gluten diet (13 g gluten/day, week 3, n = 8). Their gastrointestinal symptoms and quality of life were assessed at baseline and post-intervention. The most common symptoms were: constipation (46%), abdominal pain (50%) and dyspepsia (38%). A decrease in several short form health survey (SF-36) sub-scores (all p < 0.03) after gluten re-introduction was only observed in the group tolerating the low-gluten diet; the same group showed a lower post-intervention role-emotional SF-36 score (p = 0.01). Most gastrointestinal symptoms remained similar after gluten re-introduction. However, a decrease in the general perception of well-being was only found after gluten re-introduction in the group tolerating a low-gluten diet (p = 0.01); the same was true when comparing the post-intervention general well-being perception among the three groups (p = 0.050). In conclusion, dissimilar responses from patients with NCGS were observed after the re-introduction of gluten, with gluten at a low dosage affecting the quality of life and general well-being of a group of patients, whereas others tolerate even higher doses of dietary gluten.
Keywords: gastrointestinal symptoms; gluten re-introduction; gluten-free diet; non-celiac gluten sensitivity.