Gluten-Free Diet

More than 1,000 interstitial cystitis (IC) patients completed an Interstitial Cystitis Association (ICA) quick poll on gluten sensitivity and celiac disease:

  • 12% of IC patients reported being diagnosed with celiac disease, a gluten-intolerance condition.
  • 15% of IC patients stated that foods with gluten bothered their IC symptoms.

These findings mirror research published by the University of Maryland. Scientists at the University’s Center for Celiac Research proved that there are different immune responses in gluten sensitivity and celiac disease on a molecular level.

A group of researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, are studying the link between IC and gluten intolerance in a group of 39 IC patients. Chris Smith, MD; Peter Lotze, MD; Chris Jayne, MD; David Goldfarb, MD, and Fred Emmite, RPh, report a strong connection between gluten sensitivity and IC in this group of patients. Study participants also report that a gluten-free diet has been helpful for controlling their symptoms.

This is not a surprise to allergist /immunologist C. Steven Smith, MD, from Louisville, Kentucky. Dr. Smith finds that some IC patients feel that a gluten-free diet is helpful. He sees some gluten sensitivity in IC patients, especially in those who also have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms or unusual skin rashes, he advises these patients to stop eating wheat.

Wendy Cohen, RN, who is an IC patient, has been following a strict gluten-free diet for many years. Cohen feels there is a link between IC and autoimmune conditions such as celiac disease. She writes that celiac disease and IC “often occur together, as reported by participants in support groups for both diseases. These anecdotal stories may have inspired researchers to take a closer look at a possible association between these two disorders.”

An elimination-challenge diet which restricts common sources of gluten, such as foods with wheat, rye, barley, semolina, and couscous (breads, pasta, cereals, cookies, and much more), can give you some clues about potential sensitivities.

Also of note are the varying degrees of sensitivity to gluten. For some the intolerance may require limiting only targeted offending foods. For others, a very strict gluten-free diet which avoids not just foods but products, such as toothpaste and lipstick, which may contain hidden sources of gluten.

Sticking with a gluten-free diet is tough. The good news is that today there are lots of gluten-free cookbooks and recipes, as well as alternative whole grains that are easy to prepare, such as amaranth, quinoa, and buckwheat. Be cautious, too, with processed gluten-free products. Go for the whole foods.


Posted April 08, 2011