INTRODUCTION:Treated patients with celiac disease (CeD) and nonceliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) report acute, transient, incompletely understood symptoms after suspected gluten exposure. To determine whether (i) blinded gluten exposure induces symptoms, (ii) subjects accurately identify gluten exposure, and (iii) serum interleukin-2 (IL-2) levels distinguish CeD from NCGS subjects after gluten exposure.METHODS:Sixty subjects (n = 20 treated, healed CeD; n = 20 treated NCGS; n = 20 controls) were block randomized to a single, double-blind sham (rice flour) or 3-g gluten challenge with 72-hours follow-up. Twelve serial questionnaires (100 mm visual analog scale; pain, bloating, nausea, and fatigue) and 10 serial plasma samples were collected. Mucosal permeability was assessed using both urinary lactulose-13C mannitol ratios and endoscopic mucosal impedance.RESULTS:Thirty-five of 40 (83%) subjects with CeD and NCGS reported symptoms with gluten (8 CeD, 9 NCGS) and sham (9 CeD, 9 NCGS) compared with 9 of 20 (45%) controls after gluten (n = 6) and sham (n = 3). There was no significant difference in symptoms among groups. Only 2 of 10 subjects with CeD and 4 of 10 NCGS identified gluten, whereas 8 of 10 subjects with CeD and 5 of 10 NCGS identified sham. A significant plasma IL-2 increase occurred only in subjects with CeD after gluten, peaking at 3 hours and normalizing within 24 hours postchallenge despite no significant intestinal permeability change from baseline.DISCUSSION:Symptoms do not reliably indicate gluten exposure in either subjects with CeD or NCGS. IL-2 production indicates a rapid-onset gluten-induced T-cell activation in CeD despite long-standing treatment. The effector site is unknown, given no increased intestinal permeability after gluten.