Wheat Sensitivity and Functional Dyspepsia: A Pilot, Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Dietary Crossover Trial with Novel Challenge Protocol

Nutrients. 2020 Jun 30;12(7):1947. doi: 10.3390/nu12071947.


Introduction: Functional dyspepsia (FD), characterised by symptoms of epigastric pain or early satiety and post prandial distress, has been associated with duodenal eosinophilia, raising the possibility that it is driven by an environmental allergen. Non-coeliac gluten or wheat sensitivity (NCG/WS) has also been associated with both dyspeptic symptoms and duodenal eosinophilia, suggesting an overlap between these two conditions. The aim of this study was to evaluate the role of wheat (specifically gluten and fructans) in symptom reduction in participants with FD in a pilot randomized double-blind, placebo controlled, dietary crossover trial. Methods: Patients with Rome III criteria FD were recruited from a single tertiary centre in Newcastle, Australia. All were individually counselled on a diet low in both gluten and fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides, and polyols (FODMAPs) by a clinical dietitian, which was followed for four weeks (elimination diet phase). Those who had a >30% response to the run-in diet, as measured by the Nepean Dyspepsia Index, were then re-challenged with 'muesli' bars containing either gluten, fructan, or placebo in randomised order. Those with symptoms which significantly reduced during the elimination diet, but reliably reappeared (a mean change in overall dyspeptic symptoms of >30%) with gluten or fructan re-challenge were deemed to have wheat induced FD. Results: Eleven participants were enrolled in the study (75% female, mean age 43 years). Of the initial cohort, nine participants completed the elimination diet phase of whom four qualified for the rechallenge phase. The gluten-free, low FODMAP diet led to an overall (albeit non-significant) improvement in symptoms of functional dyspepsia in the diet elimination phase (mean NDI symptom score 71.2 vs. 47.1, p = 0.087). A specific food trigger could not be reliably demonstrated. Conclusions: Although a gluten-free, low-FODMAP diet led to a modest overall reduction in symptoms in this cohort of FD patients, a specific trigger could not be identified. The modified Salerno criteria for NCG/WS identification trialled in this dietary rechallenge protocol was fit-for-purpose. However, larger trials are required to determine whether particular components of wheat induce symptoms in functional dyspepsia.

Keywords: FODMAPs; functional dyspepsia; gluten; non coeliac wheat sensitivity.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Diet, Carbohydrate-Restricted / methods*
  • Diet, Gluten-Free / methods*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Dyspepsia / diet therapy*
  • Dyspepsia / etiology
  • Female
  • Food Intolerance / complications
  • Food Intolerance / diet therapy*
  • Fructans / administration & dosage
  • Glutens / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Triticum / adverse effects*


  • Fructans
  • Glutens