Extra-intestinal manifestations of non-celiac gluten sensitivity: An expanding paradigm.
Non celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is a syndrome characterized by a cohort of symptoms related to the ingestion of gluten-containing food in subjects who are not affected by celiac disease (CD) or wheat allergy. The possibility of systemic manifestations in this condition has been suggested by some reports. In most cases they are characterized by vague symptoms such as 'foggy mind', headache, fatigue, joint and muscle pain, leg or arm numbness even if more specific complaints have been described. NCGS has an immune-related background. Indeed there is a strong evidence that a selective activation of innate immunity may be the trigger for NCGS inflammatory response. The most commonly autoimmune disorders associated to NCGS are Hashimoto thyroiditis, dermatitis herpetiformis, psoriasis and rheumatologic diseases. The predominance of Hashimoto thyroiditis represents an interesting finding, since it has been indirectly confirmed by an Italian study, showing that autoimmune thyroid disease is a risk factor for the evolution towards NCGS in a group of patients with minimal duodenal inflammation. On these bases, an autoimmune stigma in NCGS is strongly supported; it could be a characteristic feature that could help the diagnosis and be simultaneously managed. A possible neurological involvement has been underlined by NCGS association with gluten ataxia, gluten neuropathy and gluten encephalopathy. NCGS patients may show even psychiatric diseases such as depression, anxiety and psychosis. Finally, a link with functional disorders (irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia) is a topic under discussion. In conclusion, the novelty of this matter has generated an expansion of literature data with the unavoidable consequence that some reports are often based on low levels of evidence. Therefore, only studies performed on large samples with the inclusion of control groups will be able to clearly establish whether the large information from the literature regarding extra-intestinal NCGS manifestations could be supported by evidence-based agreements.