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Article on Celiac Disease
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January - August 27

I copied the article below from Yahoo Health; it's by Lisa Collier Cool, 8-23-11. My comments (just my opinions) are in parentheses, and I added the caps for emphasis.


Nearly five times as many Americans have celiac disease today than in the 1950s, a recent study of 9,133 young adults at Warren Air Force Base found. Another recent report found that the rates of celiac disease have doubled every 15 years since 1974. The debilitating digestive disease is now estimated to afflict about 1 in 100 Americans. (Celiac disease is the most severe form of gluten sensitivity; some studies show that 1 in 7 people may have some sensitivity or intolerance to gluten - J) Why is exposure to gluten--a protein in found in barley, wheat, rye, and possibly oats, as well as other everyday products, including some brands of lipstick, vitamins and lip balms—making more people sick than ever before?

To find out more about celiac disease and the health effects of gluten-free diets, I talked to Christina Tennyson, MD of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University in New York City.

Eating gluten-free requires planning your meals: Tips for Stress-Free Cooking.

What is celiac disease? A debilitating digestive disorder, celiac disease is a chronic autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten. When people with the disease eat foods that contain gluten, a damaging reaction occurs in the lining of the small intestines, blocking its ability to absorb certain nutrients. This can lead to vitamin deficiencies and malnutrition, even if the person is eating a seemingly healthy diet. (It can also lead to many serious symptoms and diseases - J)

What are the symptoms? One reason why this autoimmune disease often goes UNDIAGNOSED for as long as 10 years (or in some cases, a lifetime - J) is that symptoms can vary from person to person. Among the more COMMON warning signs of celiac disease are abdominal pain, bloating, gassiness, diarrhea, constipation, lactose intolerance, nausea and FATIGUE. (Many people do not have problematic GI symptoms, instead they have neurological or pain symptoms. You can google the book Dangerous Grains which lists pages of symptoms linked to gluten intolerance. For example, skin rashes, bone pain, infertility, prematurely gray hair, early menopause in women. - J)

How serious is it? (Left untreated, it can kill you - J) Because celiac disease robs the body of vital nutrients, people who have it are at increased risk for anemia and osteoporosis. People who have celiac disease and don’t eat a gluten-free diet also face a higher threat of bowel cancer and intestinal lymphoma. The Air Force Base study found that during 45 years of follow-up, those with undiagnosed celiac disease were four times more likely to die.

What causes it? Although the cause isn’t fully understood, two genes are known to play a role, says Dr. Tennyson.

Why are rates rising? One theory is that today’s grain-based foods contain more gluten than they did in the past. Another is that kids are exposed to gluten at an earlier age, contributing to increased risk. (I think gluten, just ground up cereal, is a very cheap "food" even fed to beef cattle who should be eating grass; we are a nation of sandwich eaters, everything comes wrapped in gluten or breaded, we have a "taste" for it now - it's cheap, and helps companies makes bigger profits.-J) A frequently proposed explanation is the “hygiene hypothesis,” the theory that we are too clean for our own good, resulting in weaker immune systems because we’re not exposed to as many diseases. (My opinion is that gluten leads to a weakened immune system because the body is so malnourished. - J)

Does a gluten-free diet help people lose weight? (I think a proper diet does - J) Many gluten-free foods are actually higher in calories than their gluten-containing counterparts and therefore lead to weight gain, reports Dr. Tennyson. “One of the pitfalls is that these foods are often highly processed and high in fat. Some ingredients that are used are low in fiber, such as white rice flour, tapioca and corn starch, causing constipation.” (In my experience, going gluten free helped me lose weight I gained on antidepressants, but not too much. I never got constipated on gluten-free food, don't know anyone who didn't feel better going gluten free. Also, a gluten-free diet should consist of healthy food - meat, veggies, fruit, dairy, brown rice, white rice, corn, tapioca, etc. The right kind of fats, like olive oil are GOOD for you and for your brain! I don't know what she means "these foods are often highly processed" - I don't think the processed and frozen gluten free foods are any worse than any other processed and frozen foods. - J) To avoid these problems, people with celiac disease should work with a nutritionist, she advises.

Don't be fooled by fad diets. 23 Diets Reviewed: Which one is right for you? (Is she saying gluten free is a "fad diet?" It's a diet that might save your life! - J)

Does a gluten-free diet have any health benefits if you don’t have celiac disease? Possibly. IN A RANDOMIZED STUDY IN WHICH NEITHER THE RESEARCHERS NOR THE PARTICIPANTS KNEW IF THE FOODS THEY WERE EATING CONTAINED GLUTEN OR NOT, 68 PERCENT OF PEOPLE WHO THOUGHT THAT A GLUTEN-FREE DIET IMPROVED THEIR GI SYMPTOMS REPORTED WORSENING OF THEIR SYMPTOMS WHEN THEY WERE FED GLUTEN-CONTAINING FOODS WITHOUT THEIR KNOWLEDGE. (This certainly happens to me; eating gluten now really bothers my digestion, gives me headaches, skin problems, insomnia, depression, etc. - J) However, the study only looked at 34 patients. Use of gluten-free diets for other conditions, such as autism, is highly controversial.

How trustworthy is gluten-free labeling? While products as diverse as lipstick brands to chocolate and many types of groceries carry gluten-free labeling, right now, THERE ARE NO LEGAL STANDARDS THAT HAVE TO BE MET IN THE US. In 27 other countries, food labeled as gluten-free food can’t have more than 20 parts of gluten per million. Nearly three years after the FDA’s deadline for a rule to define “gluten-free,” the agency is finally getting serious about tackling the dangerous risks people with celiac disease can face due to misleading labeling. (I have had this problem when buying "gluten free" food, only to get sick! When I called one big Oat company to complain, they gave me a hard time about it saying they could say gluten free if they wanted because they government hadn't defined it yet. -J)

What’s the treatment? Although there’s no cure, symptoms can be effectively controlled through dietary changes to avoid all foods with gluten. However, if you think you might have celiac disease, don’t start a gluten-free diet until you’ve been tested for the condition, since eliminating gluten can cause misleading test results, cautions Dr. Tennyson. Because the disease can also spark vitamin and mineral deficiencies, patients may also need supplements. For people with severe small intestine inflammation, doctors sometimes prescribe steroids."

January again: I thought this was a decent introductory article to celiac disease, but as usual, missing a lot of solid information. Most doctors just don't know very much yet, and they are arguing about what is true because they require years of scientific testing to admit something is true. Celiac disease is linked to a genetic profile, but you can have a mild gluten intolerance and have no symptoms for decades. Like fibromyalgia, celiac can be triggered by certain events (not clearly understood). I believe I had gluten intolerance most of my life, undiagnosed, with mostly low immunity and allergic symptoms. As an adult I had lots of surgeries with lots of antibiotics, at the same time I was taking antidepressants. This really upset my gut, permanently -- and I became so severely ill I thought I was dying. Just by luck, I found information on celiac disease. I tried the diet, and it made me better. Now, a specialist agrees I have gluten intolerance and probably celiac, because by following the diet I became so much better. It cured some of my fibromyalgia symptoms. My story is just one anecdotal story - nothing a doctor would consider scientific "proof," but going gluten free sure changed my life.



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