Avoiding gluten? It may not be the cause of your bloating

A farmer holds a shafts of wheat, in Frederick, Okla. on April 23, 2013.
It may not be gluten that's causing inflammation in those not suffering from celiac disease. Sue Ogrocki, The Canadian Press/AP

If you’re feeling bloated and uncomfortable after eating wheat products, it may not be the gluten you’re sensitive to, according to a new study.

Many people who do not have celiac disease have a reaction after eating wheat products. Inflammation is found in people who suffer from conditions such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis (MS). While many studies have focused on gluten and its effects, this new research instead looked at a particular family of proteins in wheat called amylase-trypsin inhibitors (ATIs).

READ MORE: Is your gluten intolerance real? You’re not imagining it, new study suggests

These ATIs, the research suggests, can lead to inflammation beyond the gut, in tissues found in the lymph nodes, kidneys, spleen and even the brain. The result is a worsening of symptoms in people with diseases such as lupus, MS as well as inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), a condition from which five million Canadians suffer.

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“The type of gut inflammation seen in non-celiac gluten sensitivity differs from that caused by celiac disease, and we do not believe that this is triggered by gluten proteins,” said professor Detlef Schuppan from the Johannes Gutenberg University, Germany. “Instead, we demonstrated that ATIs from wheat, that are also contaminating commercial gluten, activate specific types of immune cells in the gut and other tissues, thereby potentially worsening the symptoms of pre-existing inflammatory illnesses

Though wheat only contains about four per cent of ATIs, it can still cause intense immune reactions that begin in the gut and then spread to other tissues.

The new findings were presented at the United European Gastroenterology Week in Vienna, Austria.