Gluten Sensitivity: Let’s Clear Things Up

Many people today are going on gluten free diets.  You can find extensive gluten free sections in Kroger, HEB, and Whole Foods.  Gluten has been in the national spot light receiving recognition on Discovery Health, CNN’s Larry King, Oprah, David Letterman, The View, Good Housekeeping Magazine and more.  There is even a “dummies book” available for those with gluten sensitivity.1

So What is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in the following grains: wheat, barley, rye, and oats.  It is also found in processed foods derived from wheat, barley, rye, and oats.  Breads, cereals, and pastas are rich in gluten.  Other foods and/or food additives can be derived from gluten containing grains.  Examples include soy sauce, gravies, soups, whiskey, and modified food starch.  Traditional medical thought is that the protein gluten interacts with some people’s immune systems causing an autoimmune reaction which damages the intestine.  However, newer research is identifying that the protein gluten is only part of the problem.  Some scientists argue that many grains (including corn) can create similar reactions.

So what is gluten sensitivity?

It depends on who you ask.  Many people use the term gluten sensitivity interchangeably with celiac disease (an autoimmune intestinal disorder).  Some call gluten sensitivity a food allergy or intolerance.  Both are correct to some degree.  Gluten sensitivity can develop into celiac disease if you are a gene carrier, but not all people with gluten sensitivity develop celiac disease.  This is where the problem in traditional diagnosis can occur.  One popular way to confirm whether or not a person has celiac disease is to perform an intestinal biopsy.  If the results reveal villous atrophy (flattening of the intestinal folds) then celiac disease is diagnosed.  If the results are negative, then both celiac disease and gluten sensitivity may be dismissed.  Newer research is finding that gluten sensitivity can exist independently without causing celiac disease.  There are more than 180 different disease conditions, syndromes, and symptoms that have been linked to gluten sensitivity in the medical literature.2,3 Some common conditions include thyroid disorders, seizure disorders, vertigo, osteoporosis, irritable bowel syndrome, and PCOS.  There have been two proposed names in the medical literature for this classification of gluten sensitivity.  1. Non-Celiac Gluten Intolerance4 and 2. Gluten Syndrome.5

Diagnosing Gluten Sensitivity & Celiac Disease

The proper tools must be used to accurately diagnose gluten sensitivity.  Relying solely on a biopsy can delay a diagnosis for several years.  I have personally seen cases of celiac disease where up to 8 biopsies were performed before a diagnosis was made.  Blood antibody tests may  provide a better degree of accuracy but still have a great degree of false negatives.  Genetic testing offers the greatest degree of accuracy and when combined with a patient’s history and examination a diagnosis can be made early and accurately.  However, the greatest tool is patient improvement.  If a person starts to feel better on a gluten free diet it doesn’t matter what blood tests or biopsies reveal.  Hence, the proverbial “proof is in the pudding”.

Once Again, Common Sense Applies –

Several years ago, many Americans played an unknowing role in the social experiment known as the Atkin’s diet.  This diet, largely devoid of grain provided many with better health through weight loss and reduction of many generalized symptoms of poor health.  However, there were also those whose health did poorly on the Atkin’s diet.  People are different and unique.  Renowned Nobel Prize winning scientist, Roger Williams, wrote a book called Biochemical Individuality examining these individual differences.  Bottom line: one diet is not right for everyone.  Because going on a gluten free takes a great deal of education and commitment, it is recommended that proper testing be performed to identify whether the diet is right for you.  Remember going gluten free is not a trendy diet; it is a permanent lifestyle that should be taken very seriously as even small amounts of gluten exposure can cause problems.

I will wrap this up with a final thought on gluten and grains.  When farmers want their cows and pigs to gain weight before going to market, they feed them more grain.  In the past 100 years, grain consumption has dramatically increased, paralleling a rise in the incidence of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer.  Despite the above facts many doctors and dieticians continue to blindly prescribe “heart healthy” diets high in grain.

Dr. Peter M. Osborne

Dr. Osborne is Diplomate with the American Clinical Board of Nutrition.  He specializes in the treatment of chronic disease and is the clinical director of Town Center Wellness in Sugar Land, TX.  He is the founder of, a website dedicated to teaching confused consumers about gluten and going gluten free.

Tina Turbin



  1. Korn, Danna.  Living Gluten-Free for Dummies. Wiley Publishing 2006.
  2. Libonati, Cleo J.  Recognizing Celiac Disease. GFW Publishing Jan 2007.
  5. Ford, Rodney.  The Gluten Syndrome. RRS Global Ltd publishing.  Sept 2007.



From our home to yours, Tina Turbin
If you have any questions or suggestions just email me at info (at)

About Us

I'm a cookbook-collecting, recipe-developing paleo junkie, and I live in the kitchen. I'm hooked on farmers' markets, traveling, eating healthy, and hiking until my legs scream at me. There's nothing better than hanging out with family and good friends. I have fun and sleeping is just plain boring. Read more About Tina Turbin.

8 thoughts on “Gluten Sensitivity: Let’s Clear Things Up

  1. Thanks, it was nice to put a face with the name and this layman’s primer video was great. I have been reading about Dr. Peter Osborne for a while, although I don’t remember exactly where. I often come across his name though when I’m reading about CD and gluten sensitivity online.

  2. I’m glad there are people out there like Dr. Osborne who are getting the word out about celiac disease and gluten. I had NEVER even heard of CD, and I had heard of “gluten” but I had no idea what it meant, before I found out I had a food sensitivity to it. It’s funny that there is a Dummies book out on it, but yet so many Americans have no idea what it is. That being said I think we’re making tremendous progress and the general public will be knolwedgeable about this food ingredient.

  3. This data here on diagnosis is very valuable. For years I heard that the most reliable way to get tested was with a biopsy, but now there’s such an improvement with testing that we can move on to much more reliable methods. Luckily with my biopsy I was able to get a diagnosis, but I know sooo many other people in my support group who weren’t so lucky.

  4. Wow. What you say about grains is really fascinating. I am interested in going grain free and have been wanting to do this for so long! I think you’re absolutely right that it has something to do with the increase in obesity and obesity-related diseases. I am really motivated now to cut out grains from my diet!

  5. I’m so glad to find this piece by Peter Osborne. He is such a blessing to the celiac community. I know he does a lot for us all with his research and work, plus he’s a clear writer, as I can see here. I think being able to communicate this material is super important.

  6. Thanks Dr. Osborne and Tina for this. I just wanted to jump in the discussion here and say that Biochemical Individuality is a great read. I still can’t imagine not thriving on a grain free diet though but I do have a couple of buddies who love their grains and feel fueled by these foods. I on the other hand am gluten sensitive so I definitely don’t do well eating gluten!

  7. I know, isn’t that weird how much conventional medical practitioners recommend a “Heart Healthy” diet that has tons of grain? The food pyramid has been perplexing me for years! Why 6-11 servings of grains and 3-5 of veggies and fruits??? This seemed insane to me even in seventh grade! I think we need a major makeover in our nutritional knowledge in this society!

  8. Hi Tina I thought Dr. Osborne’s point about the Atkin’s Diet was interesting because I remember that before I was diagnosed with celiac disease I finally felt pretty good on this diet and also my non-celiac friends raved about it, especially their improved energy levels. However, my husband didn’t really like it that much. He was hungry a lot on it.

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