Gluten Sensitivity and Vitamin D

Gluten sensitivity can disrupt absorption of vital nutrients, especially vitamin D.

If you shop the health food aisles of your local grocery store, you’re likely noticing more and more items labeled, “Gluten Free.”  Gluten sensitivity is on the rise. Research estimates that 18 million Americans suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity.  According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearing House, that’s 1 in 133 Americans. Gluten sensitivity can disrupt absorption of vital nutrients, especially vitamin D.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a combination of two proteins found in wheat and other grain products.  It is responsible for giving bread its elasticity or chewy texture (the word gluten comes from the Latin word for glue).  But gluten is found in a surprising number of foods including soy sauce, beer and flavored coffee, making it a hidden danger for those with gluten sensitivity.

What is Gluten Sensitivity?

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity describes those individuals who cannot tolerate gluten and experience symptoms similar to those with celiac disease but who lack the same antibodies as seen in celiac disease.  Early research suggests that non-celiac gluten sensitivity is an innate immune response, as opposed to an adaptive immune response (such as autoimmune) or allergic reaction.

Gluten sensitivity shares many symptoms with celiac disease.  However, according to a research, individuals with non-celiac gluten sensitivity also have a prevalence of extraintestinal or non-GI symptoms, such as headache, brain fog, joint pain, and numbness in the legs, arms, or fingers. Symptoms usually appear hours or days after gluten has been ingested, a response typical for innate immune conditions like non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Unfortunately, there is currently no test to determine non-celiac gluten sensitivity.  It is diagnosed through exclusion criteria by first testing for wheat allergy and celiac disease, and if those tests are negative, an elimination diet and a monitored reintroduction of gluten-containing foods are used.  A significant deficiency in vitamin D can also signal gluten sensitivity.

Dangers of D Deficiency

Gluten sensitivity can disrupt absorption of nutrients in the gastrointestinal tract.  Vitamin deficiency can occur if damage to the lining of the intestinal tract affects the ability of cells to absorb nutrients.  In some individuals with gluten sensitivity, the inflammatory response is to attack the lining of the intestines. Because vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, it is particularly susceptible to malabsorption. 

Recent research has shown just how powerful vitamin D is.  Deficiency in this crucial vitamin puts you at an increased risk of:

  • Diabetes
  • Asthma
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Depression

If you suffer from gluten sensitivity, consider adding a high-quality vitamin D supplement to your diet.