When Your Body Goes Against the Grain: Celiac Disease & Gluten Sensitivity

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Causes of Celiac Disease & Gluten Sensitivity

How did gluten, a naturally-occurring protein found in wheat, barley and rye--sources of nutrition for people over thousands of years--become so unhealthy?

Many scientists attribute the increase in Celiac Disease (CD) and non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (GS) to alterations in wheat's biological structure as a result of:

  • modern farming
  • new bread-making practices
  • chemicals

Modern bread-making has gone from being a simple 4-ingredient wholesome loaf of sustenance to being a less-nutrient dense squishy loaf of preservatives. Old-fashioned baking involved giving flour time to absorb as much water as possible, and waiting for yeast and bacteria to activate the dough (fermentation).

Today, industrialized baking replaces natural hydration, fermentation and kneading with artificial additives and massive mixers to accelerate dough formation. To endure commercial processing and increase shelf life, additional concentrated vital wheat gluten and preservatives are stuffed into bread products.

The result: wheat crops that are biochemically different from the virgin wheat of agrarian society. Because our bodies have not adapted to these chemically treated crops, we're unable to digest them properly.

One in 133 adults and children have Celiac Disease, a genetic autoimmune disorder that occurs in response to injesting gluten, triggering the immune system to attack the delicate lining of the small intestine. This creates inflammation and can lead to nutrient malabsorption and secondary health problems.

Symptoms of Celiac Disease

There are over 200 symptoms for CD, including:

  • extreme abdominal pain
  • nausea, vomiting
  • gas, constipation, diarrhea
  • joint pain, anemia, fatigue
  • stunted growth, skin rashes
  • behavior disorders, mood disturbances

Symptoms can begin immediately and last from a few hours to several days. The primary treatment for CD is a life-long gluten-free diet.

Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (Gluten Intolerance)

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Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (GS) affects 6-7% of the U.S. population. It's an adverse food-induced reaction that seems to have an immune component. Gluten activates an inflammatory response that can affect tissues anywhere in the body.

Symptoms of GS can vary based upon individual and environmental factors. Determining if you have GS requires testing to rule out CD. Blood/genetic tests are not available for directly assessing GS.

Currently, holistic doctors use a Food Sensitivity Panel to identify reactions to wheat. Also, an elimination diet with symptom monitoring can assess GS.

Types of Testing for Celiac Disease

  1. A genetic test (Celiac HLA) indicates your risk for developing CD. If a first-degree family member has CD, a negative gene test excludes you from the possibility of developing it.
  2. Blood tests require that you continue eating gluten products in order to get an accurate result. (Abstaining from gluten will skew the results.) Your practitioner will determine the amount of time required to eat gluten prior to testing.
  3. The tTg-IgA (Tissue Transglutaminase Antibodies) test looks for antibodies toward gluten. Your holistic physician may order a panel of antibody tests to assess if you are deficient in antibodies the body needs, or if the body is creating antibodies against its own tissues. 
  4. An endoscopic biopsy might be ordered to obtain a definitive diagnosis of CD. In this procedure, performed by an M.D. who specializes in digestive disorders, a part of the small intestine is removed and examined for damage.

Based on your symptoms and test results, I can help you determine the type of testing you need and design an appropriate, personalized treatment plan.

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