Celiac Disease: Not a myth


There was once a Greek physician called Aretaeus of Cappadocia who was the first to discover Celiac disease (CD). 

He may have discovered it but neither he nor anyone else knew that the root cause was a reaction to gluten.  What is gluten?  It is a protein found in wheat.  This was not made clear until 1950 which was several centuries later when a Dutch paediatrician named Dr Willem Dicke conclusively proved gluten as the culprit.  This discovery could not have come sooner as Dicke saved millions and millions of children and adults from this untreated disease.  Its symptoms if untreated vary from severe neurological illness, stunted growth, malnutrition and in severe cases, it can cause death.

Since this magnificent discovery, it has been viewed that people are either gluten tolerant or not.  If you are then even having the smallest amount can put your body into spasms in literally seconds.  However if you don’t have it you can eat as much bread and beer as you like without suffering any consequences.

With this view of you either have it or not, some patients were telling their doctors they have a suspicion they have CD but tested negative and were sent packing.  It turns out that doctors are not always right.

So in order to answer the big question, how is wheat digested?

Wheat contains many different types of protein, but the main ones are gliadins and glutenins.  These have to be included in bread because it is these proteins that ensure the bread rise adequately during baking.  When the wheat is digested the enzymes in the digestive system will break down this wheat compound, but additionally others proteins are formed.  These include deamidated.

People with celiac disease react to some of these proteins.  However the CD test will only check for antibodies to alpha-gliadin and but will test negative to other forms of wheat protein.  So therefore those with a form of CD could possibly test negative and be given the wrong diagnosis.

There are statistics to suggest that 0.7 per cent of the U.S population are affected by celiac disease, but because of the limited testing available to patients this statistic could be much much higher.

If you are diagnosed with CD many seen to think that a gluten intolerance will cause distress to your digestive system however bear in mind this is not always the case.  Of those diagnosed 50% of new patients will not suffer from any gastrointestinal symptoms.

A gluten intolerance can affect almost every tissue in your body.  These can include the brain, the skin, the stomach, the liver and even blood vessels.  Because of the huge range of symptoms there are a large number of diseases associated with CD such as Type 1 diabetes, osteoporosis, and schizophrenia.  Therefore people can be dismissed for having CD when they attend the doctors with one of these symptoms.

Do you think you may be gluten intolerant?  Has the removal of gluten in your diet resolved your symptoms?