Gluten can be a cruel, cruel mistress—it’s part of many of the best things in life (cake! bagels! pasta!), but ends up making some people feel beyond shitty (there’s an ex-boyfriend reference here, but I’ll resist).
ICYMI: Gluten’s a protein in wheat, rye, and barley—and it can be really hard to digest for some people, says Rabia De Latour, M.D., a gastroenterologist and advanced endoscopist at NYU School of Medicine.
The most well-known group is people who have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder where eating gluten causes permanent damage to the small intestine. It affects about one in 100 people, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation.
But there’s another group, too: people with gluten “intolerance,” a.k.a. non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).
These people—who could account for 0.5 to 13 percent of the population according to two recent studies, published in Gastroenterology and The Psychiatric Quarterly—have most of the same symptoms of celiac disease but don’t show any of the physiologic changes, like damage to the small intestine and malnutrition, De Latour says.