The ingestion of gluten has been associated with gastrointestinal symptoms even in the absence of detectable immune responses. Little is known about the pathophysiological effects of gluten on the upper gastrointestinal tract. We aimed to assess whether the ingestion of gluten leads to an impairment of the physiological mechanisms of gastric emptying, gallbladder contraction and relaxation. A total of 17 healthy subjects underwent ultrasound evaluation of gastric emptying dynamics and gallbladder contractions at baseline and every 30 min after a standard gluten-containing and gluten-free meal (250 kcal, 70% carbohydrates). The pattern of gastric emptying was similar after a standard meal with or without gluten, but differed in terms of the peak of the antral filling curve, which was wider (mean area 5.69, median 4.70, range 3.71‒9.27 cm2
vs. mean 4.89, median 4.57, 2.27‒10.22 cm2
= 0.023) after the gluten-containing meal. The pattern of gallbladder contractions was different after the gluten-free meal (p
< 0.05), with higher gallbladder volumes in the late refilling phases. The results of this study show that gluten ingestion exerts objective effects on gastric and gallbladder motility. Although the underlying pathophysiological mechanism remains unknown, these results could account for some of the gluten-related symptoms reported by patients with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
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