“The brain-gut axis may play a role in gluten sensitivity.”

Recent research from the universities of Maastricht and Leeds shows that the expectation that gluten causes stomach and intestinal complaints plays an important role in whether or not people experience these symptoms. This affects people where celiac disease and wheat allergy have been ruled out as causes. This suggests that the interaction between the brain and the gut, called the brain-gut axis, plays a direct role in the development of symptoms after gluten ingestion. Relatively little is known about him.

Although celiac disease and wheat allergy have been ruled out, more and more people are reducing their gluten intake due to self-reported digestive complaints. The origin of their symptoms is often not clear. That is why Dutch and British scientists wanted to investigate the impact of consumer expectations on complaints after gluten intake. The study results were published today in the journal Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology. More than 80 people who reported a gluten intolerance took part in the study and were divided into four groups. The results of the psychological study left nothing to be desired: people who thought they were eating gluten actually reported symptoms, and people who thought they were eating something gluten-free reported significantly fewer symptoms.

In fact, half of each group was given gluten and the other half gluten-free. In all participating groups, people’s expectations seemed to play an important role in reporting complaints. “In our research we see the so-called nocebo effect when consuming gluten,” says researcher Marlijne de Graaf. “People experience discomfort due to the negative effects they expect after eating gluten, even if it turns out afterwards that they actually did not eat gluten. Even if the cause is partly ‘in their heads’, this does not mean that the discomfort is ‘not real’.

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Brain-gut axis

The results of this study indicate that the interaction between the brain and the intestines plays a clear role in gluten sensitivity. Relatively little is known about him. Researchers now want to focus on deciphering such mechanisms in the brain-gut axis. “Due to interactions between the brain and the intestines, people can actually suffer from stomach pain, bloating or, for example, diarrhea after consuming gluten,” says Daisy Jonkers, professor of intestinal health in Maastricht. “But these symptoms are not only caused by gluten consumption, so a gluten-free diet is not the only solution.”

To treat this problem, scientists want to further investigate the influence of the brain on the development of intestinal problems. “For example, we want to know exactly which brain areas are involved,” says Jonkers. “But we also want to know which substances play a role in the communication between the brain and the intestines, and whether people might respond differently to this.” It is very possible that some people do not tolerate wheat products well because of the ingredients in wheat. except gluten. And this wheat actually contains something that can, for example, irritate the immune system or cause excess gas in the intestinal flora. “We want to investigate this further.”

  • Author: Franca van Dalen
  • Source: Healthnet