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Gluten Sensitivity = Celiac Disease

Published August 11th, 2009 in Allergies

Gluten Sensitivity = Celiac Disease

Tammera J. Karr, MSHN, CNC, CNW, CNH


What is gluten sensitivity – also known as celiac disease, and why are there so many people suddenly talking about it?

What is gluten sensitivity – also known as celiac disease, and why are there so many people suddenly talking about it? Gluten is contained in the endosperm of the wheat grain. Wheat is made up of the endosperm, bran and germ. Like an egg yolk, the endosperm is the part of the wheat berry that feeds the germ that sprouts into grass. Gluten is a protein; it is this protein that so many folks have problems with.

The offending proteins found in wheat have toxic effects on the brain and body.   Similar proteins are found in barley, spelt, triticale, kamut, wheat, and rye.  Oats lack these proteins; however they are commonly stored, shipped and handled with wheat, lending to cross contamination making non-certified gluten-free oats equally problematic.  Gluten sensitivity or celiac disease is a life long illness.  Celiac disease is regarded by most physicians as an uncommon disease in the United States.  However, 1 in 5 Americans of Northern European descent can have gluten sensitivity. Gluten sensitivity is linked to a genetic pre-disposition. Individuals may show no signs of Gluten sensitivity (celiac disease) until later in life, when symptoms appear, apparently triggered by surgery, viral infection, pregnancy, childbirth, or a stressful event. Infants and children with gluten sensitivity (celiac disease) may fail to grow and develop properly. European countries regard gluten sensitivity as a common illness, particularly in Ireland, Northern Europe, and Italy.

There is an increased rate of malignancies (cancer) associated with celiac disease.  Increased rates return to normal levels after 5 years on a gluten-free diet.  Recent data has demonstrated, the earlier the diagnosis and the earlier a patient can commence a gluten-free diet, the fewer other autoimmune-type diseases the patient will acquire; such as thyroid illness, diabetes, osteoporosis and more.

Here is a list of the most common health challenges associated with gluten sensitivity:

  • Abdominal pain, bloating and gas
  • Bone / joint pain
  • Chronic fatigue and weakness
  • Concentration / learning difficulties
  • Dental enamel defects
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea, sometimes constipation, often both.
  • Easy bruising of the skin
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Iron deficiency with or without anemia
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Lupus
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Osteoporosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Skin rashes
  • Sjögren’s syndrome
  • Thyroid Illnesses
  • Type 1& 2 Diabetes
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • Vasculitis
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Weight loss / Gain

A recent study found that some people with celiac disease had neuropathic symptoms before the gastrointestinal symptoms appeared. The results of this study, and the fact that 10% of people with celiac disease suffer from an associated neurological condition (usually peripheral neuropathy or ataxia – a condition characterized by jerky, uncoordinated movements and gait), indicates that patients with neuropathy of an unknown cause should be tested for celiac disease.

How can something like wheat be the cause of so many illnesses? Over the last 50 years through genetic modification and hybridization, wheat now contains a higher content of gluten and large amounts of herbicides and pesticides are used on these crops. This means the DNA of wheat has been changed and no longer interacts with human DNA like it is supposed to. Additionally the chemicals contained in the grain are all known to disrupt hormones and precipitate cancer.

The average supermarket in the United States can easily contain 100,000 food items. It is safe to say that 50% or more of these foods contain added gluten in the form of food additives, coatings and base ingredients. Gluten is the most prevalent form of protein used to augment foods. In other words – it’s everywhere. It is not easy getting gluten out of the diet, and it needs to be a lifelong change; it can be done and a whole new world of wonderful foods opens up to the person who has to go wheat free. The rewards of feeling better and reduced health risk far outweigh the challenge of learning a new way to eat.

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Category: Allergies